All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Flow: Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

At over 1230 km (764 mi) in length, $10 billion in cost, and over a decade in the making, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was slated to connect the gas fields of Russia to Western Europe through Germany. But with the sanctions against Russia and the politics of the pipeline suffering a major meltdown, this incredible feat of engineering currently sits unused. What does it take to lay so much underwater pipe, and what challenges are faced? [Grady] over at Practical Engineering lays out out nicely for us in the video below the break.

A Bubble Curtain containing the disposal of WW2 ordinance

As with any undersea pipeline or cable, a survey had to be done. Instead of just avoiding great chasms, underwater volcanos, or herds of sharks with lasers, planners had to contend with culturally important shipwrecks, territorial waters, and unexploded ordnance dating from the second world war. Disposing of this ordinance in a responsible way meant employing curtains of bubbles around the explosion to limit the propagation of the explosion through the water- definitely a neat hack!

Speeding up the job meant laying several sections of pipe at once, and then tying them together after they were laid. The sheer amount of engineering, manpower and money involved are nothing short of staggering. Of course [Grady] makes it sound simple, and even shares his take on some of the geopolitical issues involved, such as Germany refusing to certify the line for use after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So far, the $10 billion pipeline is unused, and even Shell has walked away from its $5 billion investment.

Be sure to watch the whole video for even more fascinating details about the Nord Stream 2’s amazing engineering and construction. Check out a Robot Eel concept for the maintenance of underwater pipelines too.

38 thoughts on “All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Flow: Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

    1. After the current mess is over, Russia should pay reparations in the form of vodka.

      One Nordstream2’s worth of Vodka delivery, a few years running.

      Not even Pooting can survive losing the Ruskies strategic vodka reserve.

      The problem would be a hungover, thirsty Russian bear would start eyeing our whiskey. Then it’s really on.

  1. Lessons need to learnt by politicians worldwide about not relying on undemocratic foreign superpowers for critical domestic infrastructure projects.

    But they won’t be, that seems to be the nature of the sort of people who go into politics. Here in the UK they seem perfectly happy for China to build our next gen power stations, what could possibly go wrong.

    1. Seems like the *democratic* superpowers are the ones causing problems here, though. The pipeline works fine, but our politicians are stopping it from being used as part of their moral grandstanding. Why do we care about Ukraine, again? Because the TV said so?

      1. I’m pretty sure more than a few people said “why do we care about Poland, again?” in 1939 when a leader spouting nationalistic rhetoric wanted more territory…. and look how that worked out.

      2. In germanys case, the issue roots back to the rise of the soviet funded green party, which rabidly demanded an anti nuclear power policy. A masterful stroke by the soviets, and it would have brought in billions to russia, had not Putler jumped the gun and started the invasion before the finalization of the pipeline. As for the rest of the union, there´s going to be 7 lean years and then some before this mess is sorted out.

      1. Nah, I wouldn’t say that. The individuals surely did learn. Otherwise, the topic wouldn’t came up in first place so often. Problem are certain groups, I think.

        In a group, humans tend to stop thinking on their own or do merely think on their own quietly. The majority must be right, after all. That’s the concept of democracy, essentially. ;)

        Also, more intelligent, empathic or social humans tend to question themselves. Blame themselves. So if the group does something silly, then they’re confused and rather blame themselves and struggle to understand why they are wrong.

        That’s problematic if these individuals didn’t do mistakes in a given situation or had a more complete overall view, because then they’re in an endless loop chasing the mistakes that don’t really exist.

    2. How your ‘friendly’ next door, resource supplying superpower is governed doesn’t really make any odds – just because the European neighbor you rely on is democratic doesn’t mean nothing that upsets your relations and existing trading can happen. For instance if some loopy ‘green’ party ended up in charge of France, but they are the sort of ‘greens’ that have some good ideas (presumably – as it is why they won) but are vehemently anti nuclear energy suddenly all the nations around France that have been relying on their nukes to some extent will be scrambling for more energy, at the same time one of the biggest economies in Europe has just forced the same result on themselves… All France’s smaller weaker neighbors are going to be in worse energy deficit as they can’t pay as much as the French can…

      As for who builds something – that really should make no odds, as long as you monitor it being built up to the agreed standards. What matters is who ends up running the show afterwards – I read recently that most of the German gas storage sites were sold to Russian company and those sites are all rather emptier than they should be… Not being a German speaker really hard to verify, so take that with a grain of salt unless you have further verification…

      1. You can’t store significant quantities of methane, nobody can (straight line!). It’s almost as much an instantaneous balance problem as electric power.

        Best we’ve got is old gas wells and pumping it back into the earth, at significant cost.

        Other than that gas storage is nothing. Big old accordion tanks hold an hours worth at best.

        In Florida, power companies have to schedule their gas deliveries down the peninsula’s highly constrained pipelines. The further south, the longer the forecast period. When they get it wrong, they actually burn oil or flare gas. When they get the forecast wrong, they got the weather wrong, so they’re all either short or long.

        That case and Hawaii are about the only places in the USA that burn oil for power.

        Liquified natural gas might yet change that practice. But for now, that’s transport only, with liquification facilities only at cheap gas sources.

        1. The German gas rainy day fund seems to be in total enough across all the locations to last several months by design. Doesn’t matter in this case how the infrastructure is built though, the point is in normal operation you expect nearly full stockpile nearly all the time and having sold out to the Russians it appears to have been deliberately kept more empty. But as I said I don’t speak German really so finding more sources to verify this is damn nearly impossible.

    3. >> Lessons need to learnt by politicians worldwide about not relying on undemocratic foreign
      >> superpowers for critical domestic infrastructure projects.

      Lessons need to be learned about relying on _anyone_ outside your borders for critical energy infrastructure. Today it’s a weird cold-war echo, but in the past it’s been civil unrest, natural disasters, volatile exchange rates, blocked transportation lanes or just plain regional domestic politics.

      It energy is critical to your economy – spoiler: it is – then you’re gonna be in trouble at some point if you have to rely on an outside source. World leaders have been learning and relearning and relearning the same lesson the hard way since the 40’s

  2. Re: Nordstrom 2. The more I read and absorb information on the web, I find myself checking my memory before making comments which I often do. But when I see that Microsoft is planning or buying a 60 to 70 billion dollar game, it makes me know how relative and absolute numbers matter when understanding why it is important to get a meeting of the mind on defining the value of what is before us. About 10 billion for a pipeline unused while over 11 billion for James Webb Space Telescope that may last 10 years if and when it is working properly gives the scholar and the common man something to ponder. The older I get, the further beyond my conscience and soul connects to a repository breast that involves a universal set of truths for mankind simply using cardinal virtues. Not politics or religion but educated thoughts backed up with empirical evidence that may have been peer-reviewed with some semblance in a consensus of stupidity or agreement. It does not necessarily flow that the better the academic institution, the better the information. Freelancing and independent thinkers need a dedicated team on which to play. Am I going to need a created website in order to have good communication online while being homebound? I don’t know for certain these days but will continue forward with my travels based on trusted caretakers online. SMIB

    1. It will never be used. Certifying it would be political suicide for any German politician for 10+ years after Putin is deposed. There will be a Chinese opera theatre in Moscow before that happens….

    2. Perhaps, perhaps not – Putin’s murderous adventure in Europe has made everyone rather nervous and the roll out of renewables and alternative supplies to allow nations to be more energy independent has suddenly taken on a real high priority with lots of funding (the way it aught to have been for decades on climate science really, but that is a whole other problem), so by the time the war is over and everything can start returning to normal the requirement for it might well be gone..

      And even if the requirement isn’t gone if the war is over should the Ukrainian’s maintain ownership of the vast untapped gas and oil fields currently in their borders I’d hope as part of helping Ukraine rebuild everyone in Europe would go for sourcing their gas from them not Russia – lots of money for them to make up for funding Russia’s war machine with the energy dependencies…

  3. It’s not so much a pipeline as it is a straw to suck dollars from Germany into Russia – sucking dollars I main reason it’s there.. Germany will probably cave and have it running some day sooner than you think as they driving around in their BMWs wearing their Berkinstocks thumbing their noses at everything that is not green energy while silently gas flows in supporting an evil government.

    1. Germany pays the developed world’s highest electric rates not because they are all stupid greenies, but because they don’t like supporting the Russians.

      However, they shutdown their coal generation because a lot of them ARE stupid greenies.

      Mixed bag.

      1. Well as their coal is among the dirtiest shittiest coal on the planet that isn’t stupid, it causes more than enough other problems to make paying a bit more for energy seem fine. The real stupid was shutting down all their Nuclear power in short order decades ahead of expected end of life.

  4. It will be in use after “I support the current thing!” moves on to something else. I’m amazed of the incredible push to “cancel” Russia, but very little push to do similar (by comparison) against China where many residents in Shanghai are starving due an extreme, insane lockdown.

    1. I guess there is a difference, if someone shits at your garden fence or at the other end of the world. But yes, China sucks and I feel for HK and the rest of China.

    2. What happens inside a sovereign nation isn’t something anybody else really should be forcing their ideals on – if the Chinese people want their harsh, controlling, outright nasty (at least from our perspective) rulers kicked out it really its on them to start making that choice, at which point I’d hope they would get the support they need.

      I would like to have seen more made of the displeasure we should all feel on how HK is being treated and how the agreements made when the UK gave back the bit it didn’t actually need to are being torn up. But you don’t want to destroy many other nations economies, quality of life, or go to war over it. The people of HK, and China at large are getting treated worse than we would like, but ultimately most of them will get to live something resembling a normal life, same as the population of Russia, the rest of China – most of the places with shittier rulers than we would like, and likely more harm would be caused to them and us trying to force changes. Look at places like Saudi, they have come a long way in a very short time without any real force being applied to make it happen…

      So HK is rather different to when the god king of one of these little empires sends their underlings to starts attacking, pillaging, raping, razing to the ground, claiming territory and murdering innocents. Even more so innocents of nations we have friendly relations with, who’s people think the same sort of way we do and to a large extent are family to us – lots of Ukrainian people in the rest of the western world, and lots of western born folks went to live in Ukraine too, and even if there were not they value the same ideals we do, which should be enough on its own – If Putin is willing to endorse this massacre against the ‘Nazi’ where else will suddenly find a ‘Nazi’ problem…

  5. oo nice there was pre-existing WWII ordnance. Excellent plausable deniability if there were to be some mysterious explosions along its route. That and NS1 should find some old ordnance going up sometime soon. Complete coincidence of course.

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