VIENNA May 24 Central Europe's second largest
gas storage facility in the Austrian town of Haidach near
Salzburg started officially operating on Thursday,
German-Russian gas trader Wingas BASF.DE said.
Gas storage at the Haidach underground facility is expected
to reach its full first-phase capacity of 1.2 billion cubic
metres in October, and this would be doubled once the second
phase was completed by April 2011, a Wingas spokesman said by
Haidach is jointly owned by Wingas, Russia's Gazprom
(GAZP.MM) and Austrian energy firm Rohoel-Aufsuchungs AG (RAG)
-- in which Austria's EVN (EVNV.VI) is the biggest shareholder
and which also operates the facility.
Wingas, Europe's number three gas storage operator, is
jointly operated by oil and gas firm Wintershall, a unit of
German chemical's group BASF BASF.DE, and Gazprom.
Wingas said it would use the storage facility to structure
and enhance supply security in southern Germany.
Austria is a key transit country between gas suppliers in
eastern and western Europe.
The total investment for the storage facility was 250
million euros ($336 million), said Wingas.
Austria's Economy Minister Martin Bartenstein said the
Haidach facility would also help secure Austria's supplies.
"Since the escalation of the gas dispute between Russia and
the Ukraine at the start of 2006 at the latest we have realised
the importance of reserves and the storage capacity,"
Bartenstein said in a statement.