Premier Tusk Surprised as Gazprom Moves to Expand Yamal Pipe

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wasn’t aware of a plan by OAO Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas producer, to study a pipeline via the central European nation.

The Russian gas export monopoly will complete a feasibility study with Poland’s Europol Gaz SA within six months for the 15 billion-cubic-meter Yamal-Europe 2 project from Russia and Belarus via Poland to Slovakia, Gazprom said today in a statement. The link’s capacity is almost enough to meet annual Polish consumption of the fuel. Tusk wasn’t aware of the memorandum, he told reporters at parliament.

The agreement between Gazprom and Europol Gaz, the operator of the Polish section of the existing Yamal pipeline, was signed before Polish Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski met with Gazprom head Alexey Miller in St. Petersburg. Gazprom seeks to reduce its dependence on transit via Ukraine after clashes led to reductions in shipments to Europe twice from 2006 to 2009.

Poland doesn’t want the fuel to be used for “political purposes” and won’t participate in any attempt to isolate Ukraine via a bypass pipeline, Tusk said today.

‘Guaranteed Supply’

Poland is seeking to cut dependence on gas imports from Russia via more links with other European Union members, liquefied natural gas imports and an increase of domestic output. Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA, the dominant Polish gas company, said today that its priority is to boost domestic output and diversify supplies. The company, known as PGNiG, holds a 48 percent stake in Europol. Gazprom also holds 48 percent, with the remaining 4 percent held by Gas-Trading SA.

“The Yamal-Europe-2 project involves the construction of additional gas transport capacity to provide reliable, guaranteed supply of Russian gas to European consumers,” Gazprom’s Miller said in today’s statement.

The planned link will be able to supply gas to Hungary as well. Earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Gazprom to build the Yamal-Europe-2 link, bypassing Ukraine.

A decision to build a pipeline crossing Poland should be made by the Polish government and the project executed by a Polish company, Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski, who oversees state-controlled PGNiG, said on April 3.

‘Technical’ Agreement

Poland’s position on the pipeline hasn’t changed and the country doesn’t need additional gas supplies from Russia, Budzanowski said today at a press conference. Budzanowski also said the agreement on exchanging information for a feasibility study is “technical,” adding that he explained the situation to Prime Minister Tusk.

PGNiG CEO Grazyna Piotrowska-Oliwa is “surprised” Gazprom released an “insignificant” document of “minimal business importance,” she said in a TVN CNBC television interview. The agreement doesn’t commit PGNiG to anything, she said.

Piechocinski, the leader of the junior coalition Polish Peasants Party, said in an interview with TVP Info that he discussed Gazprom’s proposals with Miller and is awaiting specific plans.

(Updates with Treasury Minister comments in ninth paragraph.)
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