WARSAW, April 1 Poland opened its first gas link
from the West on Tuesday as part of a European Union drive to
ensure greater supply security that has taken on new urgency
after Russia annexed Crimea and reignited fears about deliveries
Building new links and upgrading infrastructure to enable
flows eastward gained renewed focus in the EU following a
contract dispute between Moscow and Kiev in 2009 that stopped
gas flows via Ukraine to much of central and southeastern Europe
in the middle of winter.
Russia's seizure of Crimea and the escalating crisis with
Ukraine has increased pressure on the West to find ways to wean
off the supplies from state-controlled Gazprom that
meet about one third of European demand.
Moscow also announced on Tuesday a more than 40 percent
increase in the price Ukraine must pay for gas, stepping up
economic pressure on Kiev in its political standoff with Moscow
and underlining the potential threat to European deliveries.
"The anticipated gas discount cancellations in April will
increase tensions and raise gas shutoff risks by May," said
Eurasia Group in a research note on Monday.
The reverse flow link along the Yamal pipeline through a
pumping station in the German town of Mallnow is Poland's first
gas link from the West and aimed at loosening the former
Soviet-bloc nation's dependence on Russia.
Expanding the station at Mallnow allows for reverse flow
capacity of up to 2.3 billion cubic metres annually with the
potential to rise to 5.5 bcm in case of supply disruptions,
"(The) gas transmission operator is starting the provision
of reverse transmission services on a permanent basis on the
Yamal gas pipeline," the gas operator said in a statement.
"Investment in the connection of the Polish section of the
Yamal pipeline and the transmission system belonging to the
German operator has fundamental importance for improving the
transmission capacities between Poland and Germany."
Central and eastern European countries including the Czech
Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria have all made recent
strides to build new gas links with each other and to improve
So far, Gazprom has maintained supplies to Europe during the
latest Ukraine crisis.
The more than 4,000-kilometre Yamal pipeline carries
supplies from Russian gas fields in western Siberia through
Belarus and Poland and onto Germany.
(Reporting by Christian Lowe, writing by Michael Kahn, editing
by David Evans and Henning Gloystein)