Europe is on tenterhooks over whether Canada’s decision to bend its own sanctions, allowing turbines that power the Nord Stream pipeline to be repaired and returned to Russia, is enough to prod Moscow to restore the flow of natural gas to Europe.
Nord Stream, the main artery for Russian gas to Europe, is shut through July 21 for maintenance that is routine in peacetime. European governments fear Moscow won’t reopen the pipeline afterward, severing a lifeline for Europe’s economy and escalating the confrontation with the West over the invasion of Ukraine.
Even before the maintenance began, Moscow had cut deliveries on the pipeline to 40% of its capacity. Moscow blamed Canadian sanctions that had prevented the return of one of the turbines from a
factory in Montreal, where it was being repaired.
After holding talks with Germany, Canada is giving a two-year exemption to its sanctions that will allow six turbines powering Nord Stream to be serviced in Montreal, said Canadian government spokesman
Siemens is now racing to return the turbine already in Montreal for repairs to Russia. The German industrial conglomerate aims to put it on a cargo plane once it receives customs clearance from Canada, a Siemens spokesman said.
“In normal cases you would bring it via ship to Russia but now there is some sense of urgency,” the spokesman said.
The scramble to return the turbine shows how four months of war and waves of Western sanctions are running up against decades of economic interdependence between Russia and the West. Europe needs Russian gas for the coming winter, when demand for the fuel peaks to heat the continent. And Russia needs Western technology for large parts of its energy industry.
Europe faces a potential economic crisis in the coming months if Moscow doesn’t restart deliveries soon after July 21. Without significant quantities of gas flowing through the pipeline, officials say, Europe won’t have enough fuel to heat homes and power factories through the winter. European industries are preparing to ration gas to allow enough fuel for heating as temperatures drop. Germany, Europe’s biggest consumer of Russian gas, is particularly vulnerable, its industrial base relying on Russian supplies as a source of energy and raw materials.
German officials say Moscow is using its gas supplies as a weapon. They say Moscow is demanding the return of the turbine in Montreal as a pretext to squeeze Europe’s energy supply. Germany nevertheless wants to get the turbine back in Russia as quickly as possible to deprive Moscow of an excuse not to restart Nord Stream.
Before shutting down last week, Nord Stream was the single biggest entry point for gas supplies to Europe, even after Russia cut deliveries. Once it arrives in Germany, much of the gas is re-exported to users across the continent. Since the Ukraine invasion, Europe has been rushing to import non-Russian supplies via liquefied-natural-gas terminals and other pipelines, but those imports haven’t been enough to replace Russian supplies.
Germany, Europe’s biggest consumer of Russian gas, is particularly vulnerable to outages.
Gas turbines are a weak point for Russia. Russian energy giant Gazprom PJSC relies on turbines designed with technology from Western companies such as Siemens and
General Electric Inc.
Since the West imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin has pushed Russian companies to improve the designs of their own turbines, with limited results.
Sanctions imposed by the European Union don’t affect turbines or other equipment used for the transport of natural gas. But Canada’s measures against Russia forbid delivery of the turbines in question because they can be used in aviation.
PLC supplied the turbines in 2009 for the Portovaya compressor station, which maintains pressure along the 760-mile Nord Stream pipeline. Siemens bought Rolls-Royce’s gas-turbine business in 2014. The global maintenance facility for the turbines is in Montreal; Siemens says the work can’t be done anywhere else.
a former Rolls-Royce engineer who helped build the Portovaya station, said the turbines need to be returned to Montreal for significant maintenance every few years. “The engines don’t get much of a break,” Mr. Halifax said.
The Ukrainian government has been pressing Canada not to grant the exemption and condemned the decision to approve it.
“The decision on the exception to sanctions will be perceived in Moscow exclusively as a manifestation of weakness,” Ukrainian President
said. “Every concession in such conditions is perceived by the Russian leadership as an incentive for further, stronger pressure.”
Canadian Prime Minister
defended the exemption on Wednesday.
“This was a very difficult decision,” Mr. Trudeau said, adding that Canada’s sanctions “are aimed at Putin and his enablers and not designed to harm our allies and their populations.”
Write to Matthew Dalton at Matthew.Dalton@wsj.com
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