An this Sunday they are likely to run empty, the stricken gas pipelines North Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. At least that’s what the Danish Energy Agency is counting on, and they should know: all four leaks found are near the Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm. Only when all the gas has escaped should experts from the affected economic zones of Denmark and Sweden examine the leaks, which are said to be up to 200 meters in size.
Then hopefully not only the question of who is responsible for the explosions will be clarified. The companies, financiers and insurance companies affected may then also get clarity as to whether the pipelines are really what many suspect anyway: billion-dollar investment ruins.
Those involved are still silent. The state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom – sole owner of Nord Stream 1 and majority owner of Nord Stream 2 – has not commented on this for days. The operating companies, both with tax-efficient headquarters in Switzerland, have also gone underground.
Loans are written off
On the one hand, Nord Stream 1, which went into operation in 2011, is affected. Costs: 7.4 billion euros. 30 percent of them have Gazprom, the German corporations Wintershalland Eon as well as the Dutch Gasunie and the French Engie as own funds. 70 percent came as a loan from 30 banks. In ten years, more than 430 billion cubic meters of gas have flowed from Siberia to Lubmin from the two 1,200-kilometer-long pipelines, in purely mathematical terms half of Germany’s consumption.
On the other hand also leaking: North Stream 2. Construction costs around 10 billion euros. The Europeans – again Wintershall and Engie, plus Uniper, Shell and the Austrian OMV – had to settle for the position of financier under pressure from the Polish cartel office. Sole owner is Gazprom, the Europeans have each given a billion euro loan. To date, no gas has flowed out of the two tubes, and it probably never will. The federal government banned the operating license after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Europeans have written off their loans. Theoretically, they can file claims for damages against the federal government, but no one has done so officially.
In the end, the operating company is, however, as she emphasizes, not yet insolvent. Shortly before the alleged attacks on the pipelines, the cantonal court in Zug extended the so-called debt restructuring moratorium until January 10, 2023. Until then, creditors cannot collect any money. The trustee appointed by the court, Philipp Possa from the Swiss law firm Transliq, can further check whether restructuring is possible or come to an understanding with the creditors. The leaks are likely to complicate his position. If he cannot find an agreement, he must open bankruptcy proceedings under Swiss law.
Does the insurance company pay?
It is likely to be much more complicated with Nord Stream 1, after all, the pipeline has an operating license. When asked, the European co-owners only commented briefly. Tenor: It remains to be seen whether the investments will have to be written off further. Gazprom is silent. Their operating company – also in Zug – says: They intend to assess the damage as soon as the necessary permits are available, how long it will take cannot be said. “Access to the area of the accident may only be permitted after the pressure in the line has stabilized and the leak has stopped.” Eon and Gasunie have already written off half of this stake.
It is completely open whether insurance companies will bear part of the costs. No information has been available from several large insurers and brokers in the past few days. War as a cause of claims payments is usually excluded in the clauses. But how that is defined is unclear. Even the question of whether it can be proven that state sabotage was involved must be clarified. Large projects are usually insured by large consortia, and the distribution of claims payments is based on the insurer’s share of the cover.
Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Network Agency, told the FAZ that fortunately the leaks had no impact on security of supply. “I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if that had happened earlier in the year.”