KHABAROVSK, Russia, July 31 (UPI) -- The welding of the first joint of a 1,118-mile pipeline to Eastern Russia is a historic part of a government plan for new production centers, officials say.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joined local officials in the Russian Far East and Alexander Ananenkov, deputy chairman of the Gazprom management committee, Friday to dedicate the welding of the first joint of the Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok gas transmission system.
"This day will go down in the Russian gas industry history," said Putin. "Welding of the first joint of the Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok GTS marks the start-up of the system for gas supply to Eastern Russia."
The project is part of a government-backed program by Gazprom to create new gas centers in the Far East to produce 5.2 trillion cubic feet of gas by 2020, the energy monopoly reports.
Gazprom faced recent criticism over its spending habits during the current economic crisis. Profits for the energy giant for the first half of the year were down more than 40 percent, though net profits for the second quarter quadrupled.
Ananenkov said Gazprom projects should move forward in order to prepare for an expected rise in demand as the economy recovers.
"We must be ready for that and should not give up the proposed gas industry development plans," he said.
Ultimately, the pipeline will run some 1118.5 miles through the Far East with an annual capacity of 1.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.