Thursday, September 15, 2011

Russia launches first Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe, bypassing Ukraine

MOSCOW - At the height of a new round of quarreling between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sept. 6 launched a major new pipeline that will start pumping gas to Western Europe in October, bypassing Ukraine.

With the click of a computer mouse in front of flashing cameras, Putin opened the valve to let the gas into the first Nord Stream pipeline at the Portovaya compressor station at the Russian-Finnish border, a stone's throw from his hometown of St. Petersburg.

According to the Russian state-controlled gas-and-oil giant Gazprom, the 765-mile long Nord Stream pipeline - costing more than $12 billion - directly links Russia with the European Union via the Baltic Sea bed.

"The amount of energy that will be delivered to Germany is comparable to the combined output of 11 nuclear-power plants," Putin said. "This is a solid contribution not only to the European but also to the world energy sector."

"Gerhard, I am very glad that we have reached this point," Putin said over a glass of beer after the opening ceremony. He raised a toast to his "good friend" former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, chairman of the Nord Stream shareholders' committee, a post that he accepted soon after leaving public office in 2005.

The project operator is Nord Stream AG, owned by Russian Gazprom (51 percent), German BASF SE/Wintershall Holding GmbH and E.ON Ruhrgas AG (15.5 percent each), and Dutch N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie and French GDF Suez S.A. (nine percent each).

For the next 50 years, Nord Stream will supply an annual 55 billion cubic meters of gas not only to Germany but to France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark, Putin said.

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