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Dutch minister to hold talks on Gasunie role in Nord Stream

The Dutch economics minister said she would discuss prospects for Dutch infrastructure and transport firm N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie’s involvement in the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline project at talks in Moscow on June 5-7.

Nord Stream, which will pump gas along the Baltic seabed from Russia to Europe, is controlled by Russian energy giant Gazprom, which holds a 51% stake. Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Maria van der Hoeven said she hoped Gazprom and Gasunie could soon sign an agreement, and stressed that partnership with Russia was important for the European Union’s energy security.

The strategic goal of Nord Stream is to reduce Russia’s dependence on transit countries and ensure reliable supplies to Western Europe, bypassing the Baltic States and Poland and provide a direct link to Germany. Germany’s BASF AG and E.ON AG hold 24.5% each in the project. In early October 2006, Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding with Gasunie, founded in the 1960s by oil majors Royal Dutch Shell ExxonMobil and later bought by the Dutch government.

Under the memorandum, BASF and E.ON could each sell 4.5% of shares in Nord Stream AG, the project’s operator, to Gasunie. The project consists of two parallel pipeline legs measuring 750 miles each. The first leg, with an annual capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters, is set to come online in 2010, and the second will double capacity to 55 billion cubic meters. The construction of the first leg from Vologda into the Baltic waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and to a terminal in Greifswald, northeast Germany, began in December 2005.

The second parallel leg involves a land section from the Vologda Region, located about 250 miles northeast of Moscow, to Portovaya Bay in the Gulf of Finland near St. Petersburg, and a sea section in Russian territorial waters. The pipes will transport natural gas from the massive Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea in north Russia, and from gas deposits in West Siberia. (