From Russia with gas: Nord Stream pipeline opens valve

The world’s longest sub-sea pipeline is set to start pumping Russian gas to Europe, with President Medvedev in Germany ready to flick the switch. The Nord Stream pipeline will pump fuel straight to EU customers, without relying on transit countries.

­The 1224-kilometer-long (761-mile) pipeline will deliver Russian gas along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing key transit countries Ukraine and Belarus. Currently, Russia provides up to 30 per cent of the gas consumed in Europe.

The launch of the first line of the Nord Stream is the key point of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s two-day visit to Germany, where he arrived on Monday.  

The opening ceremony in the northeastern German town of Lubmin will gather the country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev, the prime ministers of France and the Netherlands – Francois Fillon and Mark Rutte – and EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
In total, the ceremony is expected to be attended by 420 guests.

The Nord Stream offshore pipeline runs from the Russian town of Vyborg to Germany and consists of two parallel lines each with capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.

The first line has been under construction since April 2010 and now is ready to provide Europeans with gas. The second line will be completed in 2012.

When fully operational in late 2012, Nord Stream’s two lines will have the capacity to transport 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas a year to the EU for at least 50 years, Nord Stream says.

During construction, there was criticism from politicians and economists who said the pipeline would make Europe too dependent on Russian gas.  At the same time, others argued that, visa verso, the pipeline would lead to diversification of European energy sources and that it could only play well for Europe to have this pipeline running from Russia to Germany.

There have also been some environmental concerns. Sweden, in particular, has raised ecological objections to the project. However, it has been confirmed that the pipeline does not present any danger to the environment or to European gas or energy supplies.

This 7.4-billion-euro ($10.2 billion) project is considered to be a historic event in the energy partnership between Russia and Europe. The new pipeline will become a permanent link between gas transmission networks in Russia and Europe at least for the next 50 years.  The project is a joint venture between the Russian state-held gas giant, Gazprom, German firms BASF and EON, Dutch company Gasunie and GDF Suez of France.

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