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GDF Suez to join Nord Stream but project still waiting for green light

Nord Stream expects approval, as GDF plans to join the pipeline consortium

By Derek Brower

Nord Stream has yet to receive approval from any of the Baltic littoral states for its proposed pipeline between Russia and Germany, but construction should still begin in April 2010, the head of the company said yesterday.

Briefing journalists at the WGC in Buenos Aires, Matthias Warnig said he hoped the company would receive its first approval by the end of October and the rest by the end of the year.

"We're stoical about it," he said, adding that Nord Stream had spent "so much money" on environmental-impact studies that it was not considering the possibility that the approvals would be denied.

He added that GdF Suez could soon join E.On Ruhrgas, BASF/Wintershall, Gasunie and Gazprom in the consortium.

E.On and BASF/Wintershall, which each hold 20%, will sell a 4.5% stake to give GdF Suez 9%, he said, without specifying the commercial terms. Gazprom holds 51% of the company and the Netherlands' Gasunie 9%.

The pipeline project, which could eventually export 55bn cm/y of Russian gas to Germany has been dogged by opposition in the Baltic States, through whose waters it would pass.

However, Warnig said the pipeline had full support from the EU, including energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The project would also come in on budget at €7.4bn, Warnig said.

And he rejected worries that falling demand – or a potential switch in Germany to keep nuclear capacity on line – would undermine the need for the pipeline.

Studies from independent sources showed demand would rise again between 2015 and 2020, he said, and Germany would need to increase gas consumption to meet is carbon reduction targets.

The pipeline will also take gas from the first phase of Gazprom's Shtokman gasfield in the Barents Sea, he confirmed.

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