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Gazprom may get 9% stake in Dutch-U.K. natural-gas pipeline

OAO Gazprom, the world's largest natural-gas producer, may take a 9% stake in a pipeline that will connect the Netherlands with Britain, Europe's biggest consumer of the fuel. Nederlandse Gasunie NV, manager of the Dutch gas network and a partner in the Balgzand Bacton Line Project Co. that's building the Dutch-U.K. pipeline, may give Gazprom the stake in exchange for a share in a pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea that will link Russia to Germany, a Gasunie executive said. “We are considering giving Gazprom a 9% stake in the BBL pipeline,'' Pieter Trienekens, a member of Gasunie's executive board, said in an interview at the European Gas Markets conference in London yesterday. “In return, we are aiming for a share of about 10% in the Baltic pipeline.'' The Netherlands wants to become a European gas hub, importing the fuel and transporting it within Europe for consumption. The Baltic pipeline, once completed, may be expanded to the Netherlands. Gazprom aims to supply a fifth of Britain's gas imports by 2010. “A stake in the Baltic pipeline will let us optimize our networks to transport the gas from Germany into the Netherlands, which we can send onwards to other countries,'' Trienekens said. Groningen, Netherlands-based Gasunie, which has a 60% stake in the BBL pipe, will retain a stake of at least 51%, he said. He didn't give any financial details. Gazprom last month chose Gasunie as its third partner in a pipeline under the Baltic Sea that will link Russia directly to Germany. The agreement will also allow Gazprom to participate in the Gasunie-led BBL pipeline, which will connect the Netherlands with the U.K. and is due to start operating in December. Gazprom holds a 51% stake in the North European Gas Pipeline Co., with Germany's E.ON AG and BASF AG holding the rest. The project, which is expected to cost more than $10.5 billion, will travel under the Baltic Sea, linking St. Petersburg with Greifswald, Germany. (Bloomberg)