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Gazprom confirms first gas via new TurkStream route to Turkey by Dec 31

Moscow — Gazprom expects to send first gas through its new 31.5 Bcm/year TurkStream pipeline from Russia across the Black Sea to Turkey by the end of December, with construction now at an advanced stage, a company official said Tuesday.

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"We expect that we'll have [the pipeline] ready [for testing] in November. So, we're aiming at [launching] in the last 10 days of December," Gazprom's deputy chairman Vitaly Markelov said, narrowing the timeframe expectations for the route.

TurkStream's underwater section and its onland section in Russia have been fully built, with the Turkish sector nearly 75% complete, Markelov said.

Half of TurkStream's capacity will be for deliveries to Turkey with the remaining volumes to be supplied via the second line to southern Europe, due online in 2021. Bulgaria and Serbia have already started work on the infrastructure to accommodate the volumes from TurkStream.

TurkStream will allow Gazprom to redirect some of the volumes it currently exports to Europe through Ukraine.

Gazprom also hopes to launch its other project to bypass Ukraine, 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream-2, by the end of the year.

Those plans, however, could be delayed as it is still waiting for a permit from Denmark for its part of the route.

The Russian part of Nord Stream-2 will be ready for launch by the end of the year, in line with the schedule, Markelov said.

The EU is pushing for Moscow and Kiev to ink a new contract to ensure gas exports via Ukraine continue after the existing 10-year gas transit contract between the two countries expires on December 31. But the two neighbors have been unable to agree on terms for the new contract, including on transit fee payments, which are a significant contributor to Ukrainian budget.

Russia initially planned to fully divert its gas exports away from Ukraine after Russian supplies to Europe were halted for around two weeks at the start of 2009 over a price dispute. Most recently, it said that transit volumes could continue at around 20 Bcm/year after 2020. Russia sent around 87 Bcm of natural gas via Ukraine to Europe and Turkey in 2018. Ukraine's pipeline transit capacity is much higher still.

Production plans Gazprom's production plan for 2019 sees output at 495.1 Bcm of natural gas but the actual figure will depend on market demand, Markelov said.

"As of now, we're 8 Bcm ahead of the plan but it's hard to say [what the situation will be] by the end of the year.

A lot will be depending on the export [demand] and weather," he said.

Gazprom reconsiders its plans quarterly depending on demand. In 2018, its production amounted to 498 Bcm, up 5% on the year, with exports to Europe hitting all-time highs of 201 Bcm.

Gazprom's production potential is much higher, with existing infrastructure allowing production of around 20% more than that, Markelov said.

-- Nadia Rodova,

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles,