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Merkel: Nord Stream deals good for Poland

BERLIN, May 10 (UPI) -- The Russian-European pipeline project Nord Stream, which brings Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea and bypasses potential transit country Poland, is good for the country's security, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday.

The Russian-led Nord Stream consortium had found "solutions that give Poland major security," Merkel told the foreign press corps in Berlin. It's unlikely that Warsaw would agree; Poland has been one of Nord Stream's fiercest critics.

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Launched by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom in a bid to bypass traditional transit countries, including Poland and Ukraine, the 760-mile pipeline is designed to move up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Western Europe, enough to meet the demands of 25 million homes.

The pipeline's first leg was finished last week and could deliver gas before the end of this year, the companies involved said. Those companies, which apart from Gazprom, include Eon Ruhrgas and BASF/Wintershall from Germany, Gasunie from the Netherlands and GDF Suez from France.

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Construction of the second leg is to be completed by the end of 2012. Its construction was delayed by a lengthy and difficult permitting process that involved major environmental impact assessment studies.

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Polish politicians including opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski have in the past railed against Nord Stream, saying the pipeline breaks European solidarity and is a threat to Polish energy security.

Recently, Polish politicians have complained that Nord Stream undermines plans for a Polish liquefied natural gas terminal in Swinoujscie, to be opened in three years.

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Because it's floating at sea and not laid flat on the ground, the pipeline reduces the water depth leading to the terminal and could hinder some ships from unloading, the Polish side has complained.

"Let's wait and see if that's actually the case," said Merkel when faced with those allegations Tuesday.

If it does, then Merkel said she was confident that the agreements struck between the consortium and the adjoining states spelled out what measures would need to be taken so that access to the harbor and the terminal is guaranteed.

The Polish LNG terminal would have a capacity of 5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, with shipments coming in from all over the world, including LNG giant Qatar. It could satisfy up to 30 percent of Poland's gas needs, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna newspaper wrote last year.

This would affect the business case of Nord Stream, which may want to sell some gas to Poland, the newspaper wrote.

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