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Gazprom is ready to listen to offers from Baltic-region states on extending one of Russia's most ambitious natural-gas projects
Energy giant Gazprom is ready to listen to offers from Baltic-region states on extending one of Russia's most ambitious natural-gas projects, its chief executive said Thursday. "All the countries in the Baltic region can make proposals to construct branches of the North European Gas Pipeline," Alexei Miller said, adding that other foreign companies could join the project. The NEGP will run from the Baltic coast near Vyborg, on the Russian-Finnish border, to the Greifswald region in north Germany, and will comprise two parallel sections of 750 miles each, at a cost of 4.7 billion euros. Project manager Gazprom holds a 51% stake, with Germany's BASF and E.ON holding 24.5% each. Miller said prospective participants would be strategic partners, and that Gazprom should maintain its controlling stake in the project should other companies join. He said construction is progressing according to schedule, and that Germany will start getting gas through the pipeline in late 2010. The NEGP has raised concerns from Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states that they will be cut out of the natural resources loop, concerns dismissed as "irrelevant" by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who was elected chairman of the project shareholders' committee Thursday. Russian gas currently reaches Western Europe by pipelines through Ukraine and Belarus, and anxiety was raised across the continent following January's spat between Russia and Ukraine that saw supplies to the former Soviet republic cut off. Russia says the NEGP will guarantee reliable supplies to European consumers, and reduce dependency on transit countries. Schroeder said construction of the pipeline was a high priority, as demand for natural gas was increasing across Western Europe, and that it would be incorrect to say it infringes on Polish or Ukrainian interests. Gazprom CEO Miller said Poland had made no offers to join the project. When construction is completed, the pipeline will pump gas from the giant Shtokman gas condensate deposit on the Barents Sea in Russia's far north, which holds estimated reserves of 3.2 trillion cu m of natural gas and 31 million metric tons of gas condensate, and possibly from other huge gas deposits in the north of Russia.
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