Cables and Pipelines
The Belgian part of the North Sea is criss-crossed with cables and pipelines. There are 3 gas pipelines, 27 telecommunications cables (not all of which are in use) and 5 power cables; there are also plans to lay the 'Nemo Link' high voltage cable between Richborough in Great Britain and Zeebrugge in Belgium. There are no oil pipelines in the Belgian part of the North Sea.
The gas pipelines are:
- The Zeepipe pipeline, which connects the Distrigaz terminal in the Port of Zeebruges to a pipeline in Norway;
- The Inerconnector pipeline, which connects Zeebrugge to Bacton (eastern English coast);
- The NorFra-pipeline (currently called the Franpipe) between Norway and the Port of Dunkirk.
These gas pipelines have a diameter of roughly 1 meter. They are buried in the sea bed, at a depth of 70 cm to 2 m, and covered with a protective layer of gravel.
The telecommunication cables are generally at a depth of 60 to 90 cm below the sea bed. There are two types of cable: coaxial cables (of which one is still in use), which were laid between 1950 and 1988; and fibre optic cables, which have been laid exclusively since their introduction in the 1980s.
The gas pipelines in the Belgian part of the North Sea have a total length of 163 km. There are 914 km of telecommunication cables and, by the end of 2016 there will be a total of 220 km of power cables.
The construction of offshore wind farms in the North Sea has considerably increased the number of high voltage cables needed for future electricity transmission. Nine cable licences were already granted by mid-2016, (1 cable for Mermaid, Northwester 2, Nobelwind, Seastar, Northwind, Rentel and 2 cables for Belwind, C-Power and Norther). The 5 cables for Northwind, Belwind and C-Power are the only ones to have been installed and commissioned at the present time.
The demarcation of a corridor in the sea bed as a result of the approval of the Marine Spatial Plan has brought a more structured approach to the laying of cables and pipelines.