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Editorial comment

Recently, Nord Stream, together with environmental organisations WWF, BUND (Friends of the Earth) and NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), and the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, agreed to work together in close collaboration as part of the Conservation Foundation German Baltic. The Foundation will be devoted to promoting environmental protection and nature conservation in the German Baltic region. It will primarily involve funding and conducting environmental protection measures and projects that improve the ecological stability and regenerative ability of the marine environment.

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The Baltic Sea has been an integral part of European trade for hundreds of years and is today one of the busiest shipping routes on earth. It is also an extraordinary natural resource. As the largest body of brackish water on the planet, it is home to numerous species of plants and wildlife.

However, the Baltic Sea is also unfortunately one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems. Surrounded by land and with just a narrow link to the North Sea, its waters are slow to regenerate, making it particularly vulnerable to pollution.

Due for completion at the end of this year, line 1 of the Nord Stream pipeline will stretch a total of 1224 km across the seabed, passing through five national sections of the Baltic Sea. The second of the twin pipelines will be operational by late 2012. The pipelines are of great political, economic and environmental significance; transporting gas from some of the largest fields in Russia to energy grids in the EU, securing the future of Europe’s gas supply. This secure supply of gas will also help the EU to meet its targets of cutting CO2 emissions by 20% in 2020 compared with 1990 levels. However, it is easy to comprehend how such a huge intervention on the already fragile Baltic Sea environment has raised, and continues to raise, complex concerns and issues regarding the potential risks to the ecology of this highly sensitive and valuable area.

The Conservation Foundation German Baltic foundation is an outcome of an agreement made between Nord Stream AG and the environmental associations in early 2010. However, the protection of the environment has been a consistent consideration for Nord Stream throughout the planning, construction and operation of the pipeline, along its entire route, over the past 14 years.

Before the project was approved, the consortium invested E100 million in commissioning independent European companies to conduct the most comprehensive research of the Baltic Sea seabed to date. The research results helped define the pipeline’s technical design and optimum route, in order to keep environmental impact to an absolute minimum.

The route of the pipeline was planned to steer clear, where possible, of nature reserves important to wildlife. In addition, the pipes are designed to withstand a lifetime of service on the seabed, so further disruption to the sea environment should be minimal.

With construction of the pipelines almost complete, it is important that Nord Stream continues to look after the pipeline’s environment along the entire route. For this purpose, it has invested a further E40 million in a comprehensive environmental monitoring programme for the first three years of operation.

With all of these considerations in mind, both the pipes and the construction process of the Nord Stream project have, and continue to be, a challenge. This issue of World Pipelines contains an article from Europipe, a major contractor for the Nord Stream project. Turn to page 28 for an informed analysis of the project, its challenging requirements, and its technical and logistical achievements.

The oil and gas industry receives a lot of public criticism with regards to the environment. It is therefore important to acknowledge and celebrate the positive action being taken by pipeline contractors, to understand that environmental precautions are of utmost importance and to recognise when contractors are going the extra mile to provide our energy both safely and with respect for our planet.