Russian energy giant Gazprom has started the construction of the Nord Stream pipeline designed to pump Russian natural gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea, a company spokesman has said, quoting Gazprom head Alexei Miller. The Nord Stream pipeline will eventually pump 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to western Europe, bypassing traditional transit countries such as Ukraine and Belarus blamed for previous disruptions in gas supplies to the region. Two pipelines, each with a capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters a year, are designed to stretch from the Russian city of Vyborg near the Finnish border to Greifswald on the coast of Germany.
A ceremony marking the start of the pipeline construction will reportedly be held in Vyborg on April 9. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as well as a range of European Commission representatives and top-ranking officials from the countries involved in the project, are expected to take part in the ceremony. The pipeline operator, Nord Stream A.G., announced in March that it had secured 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in financing for the project, covering 70% of the first phase. Gas transportation on the new line should begin in 2011.
The remaining 30% of the costs are expected to be financed by the Nord Stream shareholders. Gazprom holds a 51% stake, German chemical group BASF/Winterhshall and utility E.ON Ruhrgas each hold 20% stakes and Dutch energy group Gasunie holds 9%. Russia and Germany signed an agreement on the construction of the pipeline in September 2005, during then-president Vladimir Putin's visit to Berlin.
Nord Stream A.G. has changed the originally proposed route of the pipeline to ease environmental concerns from Baltic nations. The final route goes through the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, avoiding Poland and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.