Blue Stream Ready to Flow

Russian gas to reach Europe bypassing Ukraine

While the governments of Russia and Ukraine squabble over control of a joint gas consortium, Gazprom may soon have a direct gas pipe going to Europe via Turkey. Today, Turkish Minister for Energy Zeki Cakan personally welded two parts of the world’s deepest undersea gas pipeline, which is to bring Russian gas to Turkey under the Black Sea. The first supplies of Russian gas are to be delivered there in November.

The pipeline, called Blue Stream, is 360 km long; it was laid at a record depth of 2,000 meters below the surface of the Black Sea. The gas pipeline was laid by specialists from Italy’s Saipem engineering company. The total length of the pipe is 446 km; it stretches from the Russian port of Dzhubga (the Krasnodar region) to the Turkish port of Samsun. Turkey is planning to extend it by 501 km to the capital Ankara. Gazprom will complete construction of the two remaining kilometers of pipeline to the launcher. It is planned that, starting with 2003, three billion cubic meters of gas will be supplied from Russia to Turkey annually; the pumping volume is to increase up to 16 billion cubic meters by 2008. Construction of the Blue Stream project costs 3.2 billion dollars. It is expected that the pipeline will allow Russian gas companies to increase exports by 2 billion cubic meters of gas already by next year.

It should be mentioned that the construction of Blue Stream was initiated by Gazprom at the time when the Russian company was headed by Rem Vyakhirev. In December 1997, the cabinets of Russia and Turkey concluded an agreement according to which Gazprom is to supply gas to the Turkish company BOTAS under the Black Sea. At that time, Russia wanted at all costs to bring its gas directly to Europe bypassing Ukraine. Despite all efforts made in the negotiations on gas transit held with Ukraine, Ukrainian users continued to steal Russian gas from the pipeline meant for the European consumers. What is more, Ukraine didn’t settle its own debts for gas.

Russia’s newspaper Izvestia informs that Russian gas analysts say that Blue Stream has advantages over a planned pipeline that was meant to bypass Ukraine: construction of the Blue Stream pipeline didn’t interfere with political problems, as the gas pipe doesn’t cross territories of the third countries. Some time ago, the Polish government strongly protested against construction of a pipeline via its territory. That is why the very idea of Blue Stream appeared.

It seemed that when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma signed an agreement on the creation of a Russia-Ukraine gas consortium, the problem of Russian gas transit via the territory of Ukraine was settled once and for all. However, you never know where you are when you deal with the Ukrainian authorities. It is quite natural that when Vladimir Putin signed the agreement on the gas consortium, he was perfectly sure that Russia was completely control the project. However, Ukraine immediately rejected the statement of the Russian president. which gave a new spur to the gas quarrel between the parties. The launching of Blue Stream gives Russia a new and very strong argument in the dispute. The leadership of the Turkish company BOTAS declared several times already that it is ready to conclude an agreement for a 2 billion cubic meter gas supply by 2003.

Akhtyam Akhtyrov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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