Russian gas giant Gazprom has completed the welding of the last joint on the second leg of the Nord Stream pipeline intended to deliver Russian natural gas to Europe bypassing existing transit countries, the company said on Wednesday.
Gazprom plans to test the second pipeline with cushion gas in the next few days and start "blue fuel" supplies through it in the fourth quarter of 2012, the company said in a statement.
The first leg of the pipeline that connects Russia and Germany was launched in November 2011and runs along the Baltic Sea bed with an annual capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas.
Share of Russian gas supplies to the European market grew last year to 27 percent from 24 percent. The EU will need 100 billion cubic meters as additional deliveries in the next seven or eight years because gas consumption in the region will increase over the next few years, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said in April.
The pipeline’s core shareholders include Gazprom with 51 percent, Germany’s Wintershall Holding and E.ON Ruhrgas (15.5 percent each), France's GDF Suez and the Netherlands' Gasunie (nine percent each).