German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)



Newly laid pipeline on the sea floor. Photo: Nord Stream AG
Newly laid pipeline on the sea floor. Photo: Nord Stream AG

The transportation of oil and gas is increasingly important to the constantly growing European economy. Located at the heart of the continent, Germany serves as a central hub. Oil and gas pipelines to Russia and Norway are vital arteries. Several such pipelines already cross the German North Sea and Baltic Sea EEZ. Some of these, such as NORPIPE and EUROPIPE I and II, are transit pipelines that convey natural gas from Norwegian gas fields to Germany. Others transport natural gas or crude oil to the mainland from platforms in German coastal waters and the EEZ. Pipelines also traverse sensitive areas such as Dogger Bank (a liquid gas pipeline) and the Wadden Sea, a World Heritage Site.

Although accident prevention standards have continuously improved in recent years, the risk of leaks still remains. With oil pipelines especially, this can pose a major threat to the environment.

Gas pipelines through the Baltic Sea

A further major project is the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The first line of the pipeline was laid in just over a year and went into operation in mid-November 2011. Commissioning of the second, parallel line followed in October 2012. Plans are currently underway to add two more lines.

Bearing in mind that each segment of the Nord Stream pipeline is about 12 m long and has a mass of 24 t, even the shortest route from Russia to Germany – some 1,224 km – makes this a gigantic construction project.

Castoro Sei pipelay vessel at work. Photo: Nord Stream AG
Castoro Sei pipelay vessel at work. Photo: Nord Stream AG

Environmental impacts

Impacts of this large-scale project on the marine environment have been identified in extensive investigations accompanying construction and operation as part of a monitoring programme.

The project’s greatest encroachment on the environment consisted of dredging work in the Greifswald Bodden and parts of the Pomeranian Bay (within the 12 mile zone). According to the investigation report, however, reconstruction of the reef and bottom structure allowed organisms to resettle.

The pipelaying work involved the deployment of large numbers of vessels – in August 2010 as many as 69 were at sea at the same time. Such increased shipping traffic is a problem especially for seabirds. Heavy shipping traffic scares sensitive species away from their resting areas, as BfN project partners have found in other research projects.

It also cannot be ruled out that noise emissions during construction of the pipeline may have caused disturbance to harbour porpoises and seals. See Impacts on marine organisms in Offshore wind power.

Monitoring is to be continued until 2016 to identify further potential impacts of the pipelaying.

The capacity of the Nord Stream Pipeline across the Baltic Sea from Russia and Germany is to be further expanded by adding a two more lines. This project is currently at the planning and approval stage, with additional impact assessments.

Infos & Maps

Further information and maps for the installation and operation of transit pipelines in the area of the German continental shelf of the North and Baltic Sea can be found on the website of the BSH.