Finland Eyes Imports of Piped Norwegian Gas via Poland, Baltics

OSLO (Reuters) - Finland could receive gas from Norway via a planned network of pipelines through the Baltic countries and Poland as part of an effort to reduce its dependency on gas imports from Russia.

Helsinki and Tallinn are constructing a gas pipeline under the Gulf of Finland to Estonia, called Balticconnector and with a capacity to transport 7.2 million cubic metres of gas per day.

"The plan is for Finland to get fully connected to the European gas network and access gas from other sources such as ... Norwegian gas," Herkko Plit, CEO of Baltic Connector Oy, one of the two owners of the planned pipeline, told Reuters.

Balticconnector would allow such imports of piped gas via a pipeline between Poland and Lithuania called GIPL, due to be completed by December 2021, which in turn could be connected to the planned Baltic Pipe linking Poland to Norway, via Denmark.

The investment decision for the Baltic Pipe, a project with an estimated value of 2.1 billion euros ($2.37 billion), is expected by its partners, Polish and Danish transmission system operators Gaz-System and Energinet, by the end of 2018.

Plit was speaking by phone from Warsaw, where he was meeting the partners of the Baltic Pipe to present information about the Balticconnector.

Finland and eastern European countries have in recent years tried to reduce their dependence on Russian gas, partly over concerns that Moscow could use its gas monopoly for political influence, after a similar spat with Ukraine about a decade ago.

Finland imports all its gas from Russia, with gas accounting for five percent of its total energy needs.

Balticconnector's commercial operations are scheduled to start on January 1, 2020. It is co-owned by the Finnish natural gas transmission system operators, Baltic Connector Oy, and its Estonia counterpart, Elering AS.

($1 = 0.8843 euros)

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