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Baltic gas pipe planner sees build permits end ‘09

The Russian-German company planning a gas pipe under the Baltic Sea said on Tuesday it expected to get permission from nations to start construction by the end of next year and expected no slippage in its timetable.

The Nord Stream consortium, owned by Gazprom, E.ON Ruhrgas, BASF’s Wintershall unit and Dutch Gasunie, plans to build a 1,220 km off-shore natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea, from Russia to Germany. “We expect permits to come at the end of 2009,” Nord Stream Financial Director Paul Corcoran told reporters on the sidelines of a business conference in Latvian capital Riga. Asked if the 2011 date for delivery of first gas was realistic, he said: “I think so ... We are looking at all the details of the timetable. We also have a clear view as to the economics.” In March, Nord Stream raised the estimate for the cost of the project to €7.4 billion from €5 billion.

Five countries around the Baltic Sea have to issue permissions to build: Denmark, Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden. Of these, the last two have expressed the most concern. Poland and Lithuania have also expressed opposition to the project, saying it will make them more vulnerable to pressure from Russia if it is able to reduce gas supplies via their territory as it will have an alternative route to Europe. Corcoran said that of the 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas which the first pipe will be able to transport, some 21 billion cubic meters had already been secured by long-term gas contracts between Gazprom and European gas companies. A second pipeline is planned from 2012, bringing total capacity to 55 billion cubic meters. (Reuters)