* Transneft plans to ship 10 mln T of oil via BTS-2
* Initial plans were for 30 mln tonnes
* Russia and Belarus close to signing new gas agreement (Adds detail)
By Olesya Astakhova
MOSCOW, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Russia is rolling back plans to significantly boost oil exports via its new Baltic pipeline, Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft’s (TRNF_p.MM) spokesman said on Thursday, suggesting current transit country Belarus can continue collecting fees.
Russia had initially planned to ship annually around 30 million tonnes of oil (600,000 barrels per day) through the first phase of the Baltic Pipeline System-2, known also as BTS-2, starting from 2012 in order to bypass Belarus, which lies on the way of Russian oil and gas to Europe.
“The first stage will carry 10 million tonnes in 2012, the second stage will be launched in 2013,” Transneft’s spokesman Igor Dyomin told Reuters, adding that the first oil tanker with oil from the pipeline will leave the Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga at the end of November.
He also said that to fill the 1,000-km long link Transneft will divert some 5 million tonnes of oil from the Polish port of Gdansk and another 5 million tonnes from Russia’s Baltic Sea port of Primorsk.
Russia, the world’s No. 2 oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, is keen to bypass the countries that stand between its abundant oil and gas reserves and customers in Europe after arguing with both Ukraine and Belarus over transit conditions in recent years.
BTS-2 was first mooted after a transit dispute in 2005-2006 and the link will tighten Kremlin control over energy supply routes, also giving it the option to divert flows from Ukraine.
The news about downsizing of the volumes destined for BTS-2 came a day after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Russia is close in on signing new gas contract with Belarus.
But Russia still plans to increase crude oil exports from the Baltic Sea in 2012 by around 40 percent to around 100 million tonnes.
The cost of BTS-2 was estimated at 120 billion-130 billion roubles ($3.9 billion-$4.2 billion). The pipeline starts in Bryansk region, about 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Moscow, and terminates at Ust-Luga, near St Petersburg.
$1 = 31.012 Russian Roubles Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Melissa Akin