STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Sweden approved construction of a $15 billion Baltic Sea pipeline to pump natural gas from Russia to Germany, Sweden's environment minister said Thursday.
Finland also approved the Nord Stream AG joint venture project, but on the condition that builders provide additional information about any environmental damage in destroying old mines and munitions on the Baltic seabed.
Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said Nord Stream of Zug, Switzerland, after 23 months, had satisfied his country's concerns about the project's potential damage to marine ecosystems and "concluded that a yes is the only available decision."
Carlgren noted that the pipeline, while going through Sweden's economic zone, would pass through international waters and that any country could legally lay pipelines there, Stockholm's The Local newspaper reported.
Construction is expected to begin next year. The first of two pipelines is expected to be completed in 2011 and the second in 2012.
The two 758-mile pipelines -- an alternative to lines going through Ukraine -- would carry 55 billion cubic meters of Siberian gas a year to the northeastern German port of Greifswald from the Russian port of Vyborg near St. Petersburg.
The gas would be enough to supply more than 26 million households.
The pipelines, approved by Denmark last month, are expected to receive official authorization by Germany and Russia next month.
Russia's OAO Gazprom holds a 51 percent stake in the project, with German energy companies BASF/Wintershall AG and E.ON Ruhrgas AG each holding another 20 percent and Dutch company NV Nederlandse Gasunie a 9 percent stake.