Russia cements role as gas ‘kingpin’ with three new pipelines

MOSCOW, Dec 2 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and
Chinese leader Xi Jinping launch Monday a gas pipeline that is the first of
three ambitious projects intended to cement Moscow’s role as top gas
exporter.

Putin and Xi are to inaugurate by video link-up the “Power of Siberia”
pipeline, sending Siberian gas to China in a move that will strengthen their
ties amid Moscow’s confrontation with the West.

Russia is also planning to soon launch two more gas pipelines that will
ramp up supplies to Europe while bypassing Ukraine.

TurkStream, which Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan hope to
launch in January, is to transport Russian gas to Turkey.

Nord Stream-2, which would double Russian gas volumes to Germany, is
expected to go online in mid-2020.

Analysts said the three projects have long-term economic and political
benefits for Russia, which has inserted itself between European markets to
the west and the rapidly growing Chinese market to the east.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the significance of the 3,000-
kilometre Power of Siberia pipeline running from remote regions
of East Siberia to Blagoveshchensk on the Chinese border was hard to
overestimate.

“This is important for our country, this is important for China,” he said
ahead of the launch, stressing that the project would create jobs and
infrastructure in Russia’s Far East.

The pipeline, which Putin has called “the world’s biggest construction
project,” crowns years of tough negotiations and work in difficult
conditions. A 30-year, $400 billion deal was signed in 2014 after a decade of
tortuous talks. It was the Russian gas giant Gazprom’s biggest contract.

Gazprom is to supply China with 38 billion cubic metres of gas annually when the pipeline is fully operational in 2025.

Gazprom stressed that the pipeline ran through “swampy, mountainous,
seismically active, permafrost and rocky areas with extreme environmental
conditions”.

Temperatures along the route plunge to below minus 6o degrees Celsius in
Yakutia and below minus 40 C in the Russian Far East’s Amur Region.

Speaking in Moscow last week, Chinese vice foreign minister Le Yucheng
said the pipeline would boost cooperation and allow the two countries “to
complement each other’s strengths and pursue common rejuvenation.”

Ahead of the launch, officials also said work had been completed on the
first road bridge between Russia and China.

The bridge, which is to open next year, will connect the city of
Blagoveshchensk and the northern Chinese city of Heihe.

The Power of Siberia launch comes amid continued wrangling over Nord
Stream 2.

The 9.5-billion-euro pipeline has faced opposition from countries in eastern and central Europe, the United States and particularly Ukraine because it is likely to increase Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to hit Nord Stream 2 and those
tied to it with sanctions. — NNN-AGENCIES