Gazprom said construction of its South Stream natural gas pipeline through Europe “was advancing steadily”. On 14 November, the management committee of the Russian gas monopoly met in Moscow to discuss the project strongly backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that bypasses Ukraine. “Intensive efforts are being made in all of the countries to be crossed by the gas pipeline,” Gazprom said.
The offshore section of the South Stream gas pipeline will run under the Black Sea from the Russkaya compressor station on the Russian coast to the Bulgarian coast. The total length of the Black Sea section will exceed 900 kilometres. The length of the onshore section in Europe will be 1,455 kilometres and will run through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia.
In Bulgaria, Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller attended an event marking the beginning of the construction of the Bulgarian section of South Stream pipeline in Sofia on 31 October.
Bulgaria imports almost all the natural gas it needs from Russia through a pipeline crossing the territories of Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.
Regarding South Stream, Marlene Holzner, spokesperson to EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, told New Europe on 15 November the Commission is looking at two things: “They’re looking at this international agreement between member states and Russia; that they’re complying with EU laws. Then, if South Stream comes and says: ‘We want to have an exemption,’ we will look at that. But so far we have not got this,” Holzner said.
On 11 November, Miller and Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic announced in Belgrade the start of the construction of the Serbian stretch of the South Stream on 24 November.
Spatial planning is in the preparation stage in Slovenia and route determination through Hungary is expected by January, Gazprom said.
South Stream is designed for an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic metres of natural gas. The company said it plans to commission parts of South Stream before the end of 2015.
Gazprom says the pipeline will add a layer of energy security to the European market.
However, the EU has turned to rival suppliers in the Caspian region, especially Azerbaijan, to lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian gas supplies. Gazprom supplies Europe with about a quarter of its natural gas via a network of pipelines.
The EU is pushing its own projects to boost energy security through the green-lit Southern Gas Corridor comprising of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB).
Gazprom exports to Europe have hit a five-year high. On 14 November, the Russian gas giant said exports to Europe were up 15.6% in the first half of this year. “Gazprom’s European gas export data reaffirms good prospects for the entire year,” the company said in a statement, adding that it expected to ship 160 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe in 2013.
Meanwhile, Gazprom has started focusing on Asian markets, where demand for natural gas is increasing. Putin visited Vietnam and South Korea this week where energy talks were high on the agenda. However, analysts point out that Europe is and will remain Gazprom’s most lucrative market.
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