* Pipeline 1 to be handed over for commercial ops in October
* Second pipeline to be completed April 2012
* Anchors biggest threat to operations
(Adds detail, comments)
By Henning Gloystein
LONDON, May 4 Nord Stream is to finish laying
its first 1,200 km (745 mile) pipeline on Thursday and prepare
it to start shipping gas from Russia to Germany on schedule in
October, the company said on Wednesday.
The 7.4 billion euro ($11 billion) project is aimed at
replacing dwindling North Sea gas supplies and avoiding shipment
through central Europe. It is owned 51 percent by Russia's
Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and 15.5 percent each by Germany's E.ON
Ruhrgas (EONGn.DE) and BASF-Wintershall (BASFn.DE).
Nord Stream is building two roughly parallel pipelines
across the Baltic Sea with an overall annual capacity of 55
billion cubic metres (bcm).
"We will finish laying pipeline number one within the next
24 hours, following one year of work," Ruurd Hoekstra, the
project's deputy director of construction, said.
Once the pipeline's three zones have been tied-up by divers
and tested, it will gradually be filled with gas over four
weeks, reaching commercial viability in October, he said.
Pipeline one is designed to have an annual capacity of 27 bcm.
Hoekstra said Nord Stream had already begun laying pipeline
two and expected to complete it by April 2012.
France's GDF Suez GSZ.PA and Dutch company Gasunie also
hold minority stakes.
AVOIDING TRANSIT COUNTRIES
Countries that are being bypassed by Nord Stream such as
Poland and Ukraine have voiced anger at this German-Russian
cooperation at the cost of Central Europe.
But supporters, such as Germany's former Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder, say gas disputes between Russia and Ukraine, which
affected supplies to western Europe in the past, proved the
value of investing in the costly construction of Europe's
longest sub-sea gas pipeline.
Nord Stream says the project will not make current gas
trans-shipment through central Europe redundant, because the
majority of its gas will be supplied by additional fields in
The extreme length of the pipeline made it necessary to
divide it into three different zones, the company said.
Hoekstra said the technology had first been developed for
construction of the 1,166 km Langeled pipeline, which opened in
2006 and transports gas in the North Sea from Norway to Britain.
Statoil Repair Club, a joint venture between all oil and gas
companies operating offshore in the North and Baltic Seas, will
be responsible for the tie-in of the three zones and subsequent
maintenance and repairs.
Nord Stream said the biggest potential threat to operations
comes from damage when ships lower their anchors. In the summer
of 2007, an anchor hit Britain's CATS North Sea gas pipeline,
causing a two-month disruption.
The company also said it planned to keep gas flowing during
"One of the reasons why we are building two pipelines is so
that we can do pipeline picking during maintenance work,"
During construction, Nord Stream found several shipwrecks as
well as World War II debris, especially off the coast of the
German entry point near Greifswald, but fewer-than-expected old
mines from the war off Russia and Finland.
"We ... even relocated an entire shipwreck for
archaeologists, but the impact on construction was limited,"
(Editing by Jane Baird)