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Grigory Pasko: The Vyborg Hearings on Nord Stream, Part 3

[Our correspondent in Russia recently discovered that the border town of Vyborg near St. Petersburg was going to hold discreet (practically secret) public hearings on Gazprom’s mega-project, the Nord Stream pipeline, to discuss the social and environmental impact of the initiative. Below is the third and final installment – read Part 1 and Part 2.] nordstream_logo.gif We’ve got gas in Lubmin. How about you? On certain peculiarities of the gasification of Russia By Grigory Pasko, journalist The inhabitants of the small German town of Lubmin, of course, are happy that Russian gas through the Nord Stream gas pipeline will come to their homes. But they are just as concerned by the impact of this pipeline on the ecological situation in their region. And the Germans are certainly not in the least bit worried about whether or not the Russians themselves have gas – because they are absolutely sure a priori that they do. I must say, how naïve these Germans are!

lubmin-dom1210.jpgThis house in Lubmin, Germany is heated by Russian gas (photo by Grigory Pasko)Each and every time when talking about projects of «Gazprom» in various regions of Russia, I run into one and the same condition that the powers of the regions place before the monopolist-company. It sounds quite simple: in exchange for permission to use the territory, the powers ask-demand-suggest that «Gazprom» run consumer gas lines to some part of the territory of the region. A completely, I’m sure you’ll agree, fair demand.And each and every time, I run into one and the same result: «Gazprom» does not fulfill its obligations at all or does not fulfill them in full.That’s how it was in Babayevo Rayon of Vologda Oblast. That’s how it was in the settlements of Molokovka and Nizhnevysokoye near Sochi. Now I’ve run into this in Vyborg Rayon of Leningrad Oblast as well.For starters, let me point out that according to official data, “Vyborg Rayon has a larger percentage of houses with gas than any other municipal formations of Leningrad Oblast – the level of gasification of the housing stock of Vyborg comprises 94.89 percent.” But that’s the number for the city proper. How about the surrounding Rayon?Not that long ago, questions of the gasification of Vyborg Rayon became the main goal of a working visit by the chairman of the committee for the energy complex and housing-and-public-utilities management of the Leningrad Oblast government, Sergey Myakov. The local mass media reported that Mr. Myakov had visited Vyborg, Kamennogorsk, the settlements of Prudy and Losevo. First and foremost, what interested the chairman of the committee was the execution of obligations with respect to the agreement between «Gazprom» and Leningrad Oblast. Here’s a quote from the mass media: “Unfortunately, we lost some time during the search for the most optimal solutions, contractors for the design and construction of sites of gas supply,” noted Sergey Myakov. “Therefore there was a certain alarm for the execution of obligations from both sides. But on the timeliness of the fulfillment of the works depend sufficiently large population centers with a population of several thousand persons.”This lofty compendium of excessively, in my opinion, correct words begs one and only one conclusion: «Gazprom» is not carrying out its obligations before the region. And that’s why officials of various rank drive over hill and dale from town to town and reassure the people: relax, everything will be normal, gas will come into your homes. Only they prudently don’t name the exact date of this coming.They say, as a rule, one and the same thing: we are working (another option: negotiating); we are building a boiler plant (another option: a substation); we are including the facility in the regional (another option: the federal) targeted programme… Then the find some local official (in Vyborg, such a one turned out to be the head of OAO «Vyborgteploenergo», Anatoly Manuilov), and with his lips they say: “Next year, the enterprise (another option: the boiler plant, the substation, etc.) will already be capable of handling those loads that are demanded by the dynamically developing city”. This quotation, as I’m sure you understand, is real, too, and also from the local newspaper.Just to be fair, we will note: there are certain successes. Thus, the bosses promise “already in the next few days” to hook up the settlement of Kirovskiye Dachi to the sector of the gas pipeline from the gas-dispensing station «Vyborg» with a length of 5.74 km. And this is all for now. The rest – in prospect. For example, in prospect is the gasification of the settlement of Pushnoye, where 343 flats are waiting for gas. It is known that the length of this segment will comprise 10 km. According to the «Gazprom» program for the further gasification of the settlement of Leninskoye, the builders are going to law 2 km of pipes.dom11210.jpgThis house in Babayevo, Russia has no gas and is heated with firewood (photo by Grigory Pasko)Why is it that the plans of the powers and of «Gazprom» for supplying gas to consumers in population centers are coming to fruition so slowly?The answer to this question, perhaps, will be suggested by the article «House with conveniences» (the magazine «Nedvizhimost i ceny» [Real estate and prices], March 2007). Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The situation with trunk line gas… stands not in the best manner. ‘To get permission to lay a gas pipeline is not simple, and installation too will come none too cheaply’, speculates Maria Litinetskaya (head of the department of out-of-town real estate of the company Blackwood). According to her words, the laying of a linear meter of pipe costs 60-70 dollars. On average, if the gas line runs along the boundary of a lot, one needs to orient oneself to a sum of 5-6 thsd. dollars, and for each 100 m to throw in another 2 thsd. dollars on top of that. At the same time, the place where the central gas trunk pipeline passes may be found sufficiently far away. For example, for the gasification of the settlement of «Grafskiye prudy» in the Moscow region, the pipe needed to be laid for 17 km.“However, all is not so simple. The gas pipeline may be nearby, however if this will be a high-pressure pipe, then to hook up to it is realistic only upon the construction of a gas distribution station. And just the equipment for it alone together with the corresponding permissions costs around 50 thousand dollars. At the same time, you need to bear in mind that in certain places it is impossible to connect for any money whatsoever: the existing networks can not withstand the additional load.”

To this I will add: the pressure in the trunk gas pipeline Nord Stream will comprise 220 atmospheres. That is, there’s no way to avoid the construction of a gas distribution station. And this means that gas for the inhabitants of Vyborg Rayon (just like those of Babayevo, Sochi, and others) is not going to come cheap.And probably that’s why they’re not in a hurry: neither «Gazprom» (so as not to upset the people with the expensiveness of the gas), nor the regional government officials (so as not to look like chatterboxes), nor the people themselves, if the pipe finally does get run up to their property line (not everyone in the family has a spare 5-6 thousand dollars lying around).