Warsaw, Poland – Earlier this week, Italian firm Saipem signed a deal worth €280 million to build a 275 km-long gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, connecting Poland and Denmark, as part of the inter-European Baltic Pipe Project.
With Poland importing most of its natural gas from Russia, the Baltic Pipe, which will link gas fields on the Norwegian shelf in the North Sea to the Polish coast, has been hailed by Warsaw as a way of reducing its dependence on Moscow.
“This is indeed very good news for Poland, and not only in the near future, but I deeply believe for decades,” said Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, at a press conference on Monday.
“If we are talking about full diversification of gas supplies to Poland, if we are talking about full independence of Poland as a recipient from Russia, this is the milestone on the road to this non-dependence”, he added.
Warsaw’s long-term deal with Russia’s Gazprom is scheduled to expire in 2022.
Baltic Pipe: increasing energy security and reducing CO2 emissions
Co-financed by the European Union, the Baltic Pipe Project, which has a total cost of 1.6 billion euros, says it will provide a new inter-European gas corridor that will supply gas directly from Norway, while at the same time increasing energy security and reducing CO2 emissions in the CEE region.
But the capacity of the new pipeline, scheduled to be launched in October 2022, will be 10 billion cubic metres per year, which reportedly exceeds Poland’s domestic needs and appears to signal Poland’s intentions of becoming a regional gas hub for Europe and particularly Ukraine.
“It is very important that Poland becomes one of the guarantors of Ukraine’s energy security, which, as we know, has suffered from Russia’s gas and energy blackmail for many years,” explained the president.
Nord Stream 2 nears completion
Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Sunday that a special pipe-laying vessel, which could be used by Russia to complete construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, had arrived in the Baltic Sea.
The 1,200-kilometer long Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been designed by Moscow to increase gas supplies to Germany, Russia’s biggest energy customer, through the Baltic Sea by bypassing overland routes crossing through Ukraine and Poland.
According to Reuters, the arrival of the pipe-laying vessel suggests that the pipeline project remains a priority for Moscow despite sanctions by the U.S., which says the pipeline would make Europe too reliant on Russia for energy, leaving it in Moscow’s political grip.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he hoped the project would be completed in early 2021 at the latest.
The project was just weeks away from completion in 2019, before U.S. sanctions threatened to halt work on the last remaining section in Danish waters.