MOSCOW, Aug. 3 - New U.S. sanctions will make it harder for Russia to build two gas export pipelines to Europe but the projects are unlikely to be stopped, Reuters reported Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has reluctantly signed into law further sanctions on Russia but some of the measures are discretionary and most White House watchers believe he will not take action against Russia's energy infrastructure.
This would allow Gazprom's two big pipeline projects to go ahead, although at a higher price and with some delays.
The Kremlin, dependent on oil and gas revenues, sees the pipelines to Germany and Turkey - Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream - as crucial to increasing its market share in Europe.
It also fears that Western partners - needed to develop the deepwater, shale and Arctic gas deposits that will fill the pipelines - will be scared off by sanctions.
Gazprom warned investors last month that the sanctions "may result in delays, or otherwise impair or prevent the completion of the projects by the group."
With all that in mind, the Russian gas giant is taking steps to reduce the impact of sanctions.
It has accelerated pipe-laying by Swiss contractor Allseas Group under the Black Sea for TurkStream - even though there is no final agreement on where the pipeline will make landfall in Turkey. It is also hurriedly building a second TurkStream line to export gas to Europe.
"The construction of the second line is underway just in case the sanctions hit," a senior Gazprom source told Reuters.
A spokesman for Allseas said 100 km of the 900-km first line have been built since June 23 and preparatory work is underway for the second line.
The biggest cost of any delays to the new lines could come from increased transit fees paid to Ukraine, the route by which Russian gas has traditionally reached Europe.
Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream bypass Ukraine, but if they are brought into use late, Gazprom will have to continue using the Ukrainian route and may have to pay more for the privilege.
The European Union, fearing sanctions will hurt oil and gas projects on which it depends, said it was ready to retaliate unless it obtained U.S. guarantees that European firms would not be targeted.
Five Western firms that have invested in Nord Stream 2 – Wintershall and Uniper of Germany, Austria's OMV, Anglo-Dutch Shell, and France's Engie - say it is too early to judge the impact of sanctions.
For now, they are standing by their pledge of up to 950 million euros ($1.13 billion) each to finance the 1,225 km (760 mile) Nord Stream 2. (rt/ez)