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16 Mar, 2010 07:43

Nord Stream set to start as South Stream merger calls rejected

The Nord Stream pipeline project is close to securing $5.5 billion worth of finance, with nearly 30 foreign banks expected to approve loans later on Tuesday.

The Nord Stream gas pipeline which will run under the Baltic Sea bypassing Ukraine to Europe is on the European Commission‘s list of strategic projects, and nothing stands in its way. But other gas projects such as South Stream and Nabucco may struggle to repeat their rival’s success.

Partner at Rusenergy, Mikhael Krutikhin, says the Nord Stream project should run smoothly.

“I do not think there are any stumbling points for Nord Stream because it’s an alliance of Gazprom with first German energy companies, and Germany is very interested in the project because it wants to become a distribution hub for Russian gas.”

Demand for Nord Stream’s gas is assured. Just as well, analysts say, with the pipeline due to start operating next year.

Things may run less smoothly for another Russian-backed project South stream, as gas consumption plummeted in Europe last year. Italy’s Eni has repeatedly suggested merging South Stream with the EU-backed Nabucco in order to save time and money. The idea doesn’t find support on the Russian side.

“We are not discussing these issues at all.  We understand the need for diversifying energy sources in Europe.  We think that Nabucco and South Stream are far from competitors, and we think that for the European user, the more gas the better.” says Energy Minister, Sergey Shmatko.

Russia says South Stream is more competitive than Nabucco, though analysts have their doubts. However the world’s leading gas suppliers are more bullish. Top 10 gas producer Qatar says demand will once again exceed supply, as early as 2012.