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Lithuania hails progress on LNG during EU presidency

VILNIUS, Lithuania, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Lithuania's president this week hailed progress on liquified natural gas projects during its EU presidency and predicted successor Greece will do the same.

President Dalia Grybauskaite said in Vilnius Wednesday Lithuania could claim success in working to secure the EU's energy security and diversify supplies during its six-month stint heading the European Union Council, citing LNG terminal projects currently underway in both countries.

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During ceremonies symbolically handing over the EU helm to Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Grybauskaite said talks with the pair had convinced her Greece would carry on Lithuania's efforts to cut EU dependence on Russian natural gas supplies.

"During the meetings, views were exchanged on the experience of the two countries in an effort to ensure alternative gas supplies and implement the liquefied natural gas terminal projects," the president said.

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Grybauskaite cited the ongoing construction of a new LNG terminal at the port of Klaipeda, which is scheduled to open by December 2014 as a means to obtain a cheaper alternative to Gazprom-supplied Russian gas.

"Such terminal is already operating in Greece," she said, referring to the Revithoussa LNG Terminal, a facility operated by the Greek pipeline transmission company DESFA currently undergoing a feasibility study for a $180 million expansion.

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While holding the Council helm, Lithuania concentrated heavily on the Europe's external energy policy, as well as the implementation of a single internal energy market -- it helped to include strategic interconnection projects into the EU's seven-year budget for the first time.

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The priority list contains 15 gas and electricity projects from the Baltic States, including six from Lithuania.

Financing for the Klaipeda LNG terminal in the form of a long-term $120 million loan from the European Investment Bank was secured in July.

The project includes a $45 million jetty built by Latvia's BMGS as well as a $46 million, 12-mile pipeline connecting it to the Lithuanian national grid, the Baltic News Service reported.

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Also included in the project is a massive floating storage regasification unit being built in South Korea for Norway's Hoegh LNG.

FSRUs are vessels moored offshore that allow LNG carriers to unload their cargo, regasify it and pipe it inland without the need for expensive and time-consuming onshore regasification plants.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said in Klaipeda last week the project is on target for an opening in 12 months.

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"The rate of the project implementation is very high," he said. "I was assured ... that currently there are no delays that could prevent the project from being completed as scheduled."

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In addition to the expanding Greece's only existing LNG terminal, DESFA is also considering the use of an FSRU near the port of Alexandroupolis, close to where the new Trans-Adriatic Pipeline connecting Europe to Azerbaijan will enter Greek territory.

The trade publication Natural Gas Europe reported a Greek affiliate of Gazprom is proposing $400 project that would include an FSRU in the Adriatic Sea along with a 135,000-cubic-meter storage facility and a 15-mile undersea pipeline into the Greek national grid.

This connection would also provide it access to TAP and the upcoming Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria. Its backers say it could accommodate imports from various LNG suppliers through spot market purchases, thus enhancing the "liquidity" of the local Greek market.

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