Pumping of Russian natural gas to Europe via the Baltic Nord Stream pipeline will start in September 2011, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
"In May 2011, construction is to be completed on the sea section and on land in Germany and Russia. And gas will start to be pumped in September," Putin said at a meeting with Marcel Kramer, CEO of Dutch Gasunie, which has a 9% stake in the project.
Earlier on Friday, Russia's Gazprom received its final permit from Finland to build the $10 billion pipeline, which will allow the world's largest gas producer to bypass traditional transit countries blamed for previous disruptions in gas supplies to Western Europe.
The project, which also involves Germany's BASF and E.ON Ruhrgas, had encountered hurdles from Baltic nations concerned about the pipeline's environmental impact. The final route goes through the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, avoiding Poland and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Putin said in Helsinki on Thursday that Russia's energy strategy is based on an expected growth in global demand, and the structure of energy consumption is unlikely to change in the next 15-20 years despite the development of alternative sources. Russia currently supplies about 20% of the European Union's natural gas demand.
Putin told Kramer he hoped for "effective joint work" with Gasunie, including in gas distribution to consumers in Europe and in using the Dutch company's storage facilities.
The Nord Stream operator confirmed that Finland had issued the final permit for the 1,220- kilometer (758-mile) pipeline, whose construction is to be launched in April.
"This is the culmination of four years of intensive studies, consultations and dialogue with authorities, experts, stakeholders and the public in Finland and other countries through the Baltic Sea region," Nord Stream Managing Director Matthias Warnig said in a news release.
Finland's "water permit" complements the earlier permit granted by the government for the Nord Stream consortium to use Finnish waters.
Nord Stream earlier secured permits from Finland, Russia, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. The operator has changed the originally proposed route to ease environmental concerns.
Nord Stream will have two pipelines on the Baltic floor stretching from Russia's Vyborg near the Finnish border to Greifswald on Germany's coast. The first pipe will deliver 27.5 billion cubic meters a year from 2011, while the second line is to double the capacity in 2012.
MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti)