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How Do European Natural Gas Pipelines Move Gas to Markets?

While natural gas production has increased in the North Sea, most of the natural gas being used in Europe is imported via pipelines from Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East and even Africa. Additionally, there are 16 LNG regasification facilities located in Western Europe and more than 50 that are under consideration or construction. Imported natural gas is then transported throughout the continent by a vast pipeline network.

The following are a number of major pipelines that import natural gas into the European Union. Some have been on-stream for years, while others are still under consideration or construction.

South Caucasus Pipeline

Connecting produced natural gas from the massive Shah Deniz field in Azeri Caspian Sea to Europe via Georgia and Turkey, the South Caucasus Pipeline is nearly 435 miles (700 kilometers) in length. Constructed parallel with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) crude oil pipeline that travels the same route, the South Caucasus Pipeline connects the Caspian with Europe.

Capable of transporting 247 billion cubic feet (7 billion cubic meters) of gas a year, the South Caucasus Pipeline commenced deliveries in September 2006. Held by a joint venture called the South Caucasus Pipeline Company, seven companies, including BP and StatoilHydro, are shareholders in the line.

Nabucco

Currently under consideration, the Nabucco natural gas pipeline will span some 2050 miles (3,300 kilometers) and connect the Caspian, Middle East and North Africa with Europe through the eastern countries of Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. The product will then be transported to Central and Western Europe.

For an investment of 7.9 billion euro, the Nabucco natural gas pipeline is expected to transport 1095 billion cubic feet (31 billion cubic meters) of natural gas a year. A feasibility study divided the construction of the massive pipeline into two phases. The first phase of construction will commence in 2011 and is expected to be completed in 2014, and the second phase of construction will span 2014 and 2015.

Nord Stream

Connecting Russia with Europe via the Baltic Sea, the proposed Nord Stream natural gas pipeline will traverse approximately 760 miles (1,220 kilometers). Comprised of two parallel lines, Nord Stream will deliver a combined 1,942 billion cubic feet (55 billion cubic meters) of natural gas a year.

Traveling from Vyborg, Russia on the Portovaya Bay to the coast of Germany, the first pipeline is expected to be completed in 2011, and the second line should be complete in 2012. A joint venture between Gazprom, Wintershall, Ruhrgas and Nederlandse Gasunie, the pipeline will require an estimated investment of 7.4 billion euro.

South Stream

Currently under consideration, the South Stream natural gas pipeline will connect Russia with the EU via the Black Sea. The subsea pipeline will span more than 560 miles (900 kilometers) from the coast of Russia to the coast of Bulgaria.

From Bulgaria, there are two onshore routes currently being studied, with one traveling to the northwest and the other being laid toward the southwest. Russian Gazprom and Italian Eni signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the South Stream project in June 2007. An annual capacity for the pipeline has not yet been determined.

Blue Stream

Also connecting Russian natural gas with European markets, the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline links Russia and Turkey via the Black Sea. Of the 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) of pipeline that make up the Blue Stream project, 246 miles (396 kilometers) of them are beneath the Black Sea.

Coming on-stream in 2003, the Blue Stream pipeline has increased delivery over the years to a peak of 16 billion cubic feet (.45 billion cubic meters) of natural gas annually.

Green Stream

The longest subsea pipeline in the Mediterranean, the Green Stream natural gas pipeline connects natural gas produced in Northern Africa with the European market. Part of the Western Libyan Gas project, the Green Stream pipeline links Libya with Italy via Sicily.

Measuring 323 miles (520 kilometers) long, the Green Stream pipeline reaches water depths of 3,698 feet (1,127 meters). With construction spanning 2003 and 2004, the pipeline began deliveries soon afterward, with a yearly delivery capacity of 283 billion cubic feet (8 billion cubic meters) of natural gas.

Langeled

Exporting natural gas produced at the massive Ormen Lange offshore field on the Norwegian Shelf, the Langeled pipeline measures some 745 miles (1,200 kilometers long), connecting Norway with the east coast of the UK. Langeled is purported to be the longest subsea pipeline in the world.

StatoilHydro served as operator of the construction phase of the project, and Gassco began as the operator after the project came on-stream. Commencing deliveries in October 2007, the Langeled pipeline has the capacity to transport up to 2,472 million cubic feet (70 million cubic meters) of gas a day.

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