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Poland and Norway open 'milestone' trans-Baltic gas pipeline

The National logo The National 27/09/2022 Tim Stickings

Poland and Norway opened a new gas pipeline via Denmark on Tuesday, hailed as a much-needed alternative to Russian-controlled routes.

At a ceremony in Poland, Norway’s Energy Minister Terje Aasland said the opening of Baltic Pipe was “a milestone on the important path towards European independence”.

The 850-kilometre route connects Poland to the Danish mainland and then to Norway, historically the second-biggest gas provider to the EU after Russia.

It allows Poland to draw directly on Norwegian gas deposits for the first time, while allowing Denmark and its neighbour Sweden to buy from Poland’s own small gas reserves.

Polish President Andrzej Duda called the new pipeline a “Polish dream”.

“Baltic Pipe will allow us to diversify gas supplies to Poland, strengthen our country’s sovereignty and make us independent of supplies from Russia,” he said.

The project was approved in 2019 but halted by Danish regulators on environmental grounds last year. A new permit was issued in March, days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The push to escape reliance on Russian energy was given extra urgency on Tuesday after mysterious leaks were discovered on two Kremlin-owned pipelines to Germany.

Baltic Pipe, which was estimated to cost about $2.3 billion and was partly funded by the EU, is expected to reach its full capacity of up to 10 billion cubic metres a year in 2023.

Workers at a compressor station at the Polish end of Baltic Pipe. Getty © Provided by The National Workers at a compressor station at the Polish end of Baltic Pipe. Getty

European energy commissioner Kadri Simson said the pipeline could play a valuable role in mitigating the energy crisis.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said it “marks a crucial geopolitical step for all of us.”

“Putin uses Russian energy as a weapon to destabilise Europe, to divide us. He cannot be allowed to succeed,” Ms Frederiksen said, referring to the Russian president.

Poland, one of the fiercest advocates in Europe of isolating Moscow, was one of several countries to have their Russian gas supplies cut off in April after refusing Mr Putin’s demand to pay in roubles.

It opened a gas interconnector with Lithuania in May and another with Slovakia in August, but Baltic Pipe is the biggest addition to Poland’s import capacity, with capacity to cover about half its gas needs.

The pipeline runs in three main parts, first connecting Norway’s Europipe II link to the Danish transmission system, then running underground for 210km beneath the Danish mainland before reaching Poland on the Baltic sea bed.

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