Gaz-System and Amber Grid, the gas transmission operators of Poland and Lithuania, have commissioned a long awaited inter-connector between their respective pipeline networks, helping to reduce the reliance of the Baltic nations on Russian pipeline gas.
Known as Gas Interconnection Poland–Lithuania (GIPL), the pipeline is capable of transporting gas in both directions.
The link can transport about 2 billion cubic metres per annum of gas from Poland to Lithuania and onwards to Latvia and Estonia.
The maximum annual capacity for flows from Lithuania to Poland was set at 1.9 Bcm of gas.
The opening ceremony for the 508-kilometre, €500 million ($550 million) pipeline was held last Thursday at the Jauniunai compressor station, one of the main hubs of the Lithuanian gas infrastructure and starting point for the GIPL.
“In a changed geopolitical situation due to the war in Ukraine caused by Russia, the GIPL pipeline, together with the Klaipeda LNG terminal [in Lithuania], is here to provide energy security infrastructure not only for the country, but also for Poland and the whole Baltic region,” Amber Grid said.
Speaking at the ceremony, Poland’s head of energy infrastructure strategy Piotr Naimski said the interconnector will give Poland immediate access to gas deliveries from Lithuania’s Klaipeda terminal.
“GIPL, together with other [alternative gas supply] projects in Poland such as the Baltic Pipe, an interconnector with Slovakia and the expansion of the LNG terminal in Swinoujscie, makes it easier for Europe to overcome dependency on the unreliable and aggressive supplier from the East”, Naimski said.
The measures have added significance since Russian gas giant Gazprom abruptly halted contracted pipeline gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria in April after demanding that customers switch to a new ruble-based payment system, involving country’s leading banking institution, Gazprombank.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that "unfriendly" nations would see their gas imports unless they acceded to the payment demands.
Russian new agency Tasss has reported that Poland has been buying Russian gas via third party sellers in Germany, but the interconnector with Lithuania is one of a number of alternative sources of supply taking shape.
To fully unlock the potential of GIPL, Amber Grid is working on doubling the throughput capacity of the pipeline network between Lithuania and Latvia under a project known as the Enhancement of Lithuania-Latvia Interconnection (ELLI).
Construction and upgrade work on the pipeline infrastructure in both countries is currently expected to be completed before end of 2023, with the ELLI project to come online in 2024.
In April, Estonia and Finland also announced a joint plan to bring an LNG floating storage and regasification vessel to support the creation of a regasification terminal at Paldiski, about 45-kilometres from Tallinn.
The terminal that is anticipated to become operational by this winter, will add flexibility to the existing gas pipeline between the two countries, known as Balticconnector.
In addition to the scheduled commissioning of the Baltic pipeline from Norway, Poland is also expanding its own LNG import capacity.
Over the weekend, the US revealed new sanctions against Russian entities to increase economic pressure in response to the Kremlin's continuing its military assault on Ukraine. The latest measures added 27 Gazprombank executives to the list of individuals targeted by sanctions.
“This is not a full block. We are not freezing the assets of Gazprombank or prohibiting any transactions with Gazprombank,” an official with US President Joe Biden’s administration told reporters, according to Reuters. “What we’re signalling is that Gazprombank is not a safe haven.”