UK in Nord Stream link talks

GAZPROM said yesterday that it was in preliminary discussions to link Britain with the Nord Stream gas pipeline, potentially making up for domestic supply as North Sea reserves decline.

The company launched the first stage of the Nord Stream pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to the German coastal town of Lubmin, last November. It is due to double its capacity to 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year with the launch of a parallel line later this year.

Gazprom has proposed further expansion of Nord Stream to try to reduce shipments via neighbouring Ukraine to minimal levels after the failure of talks on joint control of Ukrainian transit pipelines. There have been long-running tensions between Gazprom and Ukraine over gas prices and transshipment of gas to Europe.

A direct link between Britain and Nord Stream could entail significant new infrastructure investment. But expansion in Britain has long been a goal of the Russian state gas export monopoly.