Lengths of pipe for Baltic Sea gas pipeline arrive in Kotka
The trains carrying the first 4,500-metre consignment of pipes for the planned Baltic Sea gas pipeline arrived in the Mussalo port of Kotka on Sunday and Monday.
The controversial 1,200-kilometre pipeline of the Russian-German Nord Stream constortium is planned to run from Vyborg in Russia under the Baltic Sea to Greifswald in Germany.
The pipes will be stored in a warehouse until they can be coated in a factory to be built in the harbour.
According to Eupec PipeCoatings, a subcontractor of Nord Stream, the launch of the factory construction will take place in March 2009.
Nord Stream’s environmental impact evaluation (YVA) for the pipeline project is due in January 2009, after which environmental permits are expected from the five coastal states in the Baltic Sea region.
At present, officials are considering whether or not the Port of Kotka should undergo an assessment of environmental effects before a building permit for the planned factory can be granted.
Antti Puhalainen from the Southwest Finland Regional Environment Centre says that it has to be determined first whether or not the construction of the coating factory actually constitutes a part of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline project.
”We have asked for a written statement on the matter from the Uusimaa Regional Environment Centre. The purpose is to define what actions are included in the construction of the pipeline. We are awaiting a response by the end of June”, Puhalainen reports.
”The Environment Centre cannot interfere in the storage of the pipes, but if the permits are not granted, the pipes are in the wrong place”, Puhalainen adds.
The City of Kotka’s permit for the storage of the pipes exists, and the deadline for appeal against the granting of such a permit has expired, notes building inspector Vesa Yrjönen from the City of Kotka’s Building Inspection Authority.
A pipe system needed for a 500-kilometre stretch of the pipeline will be coated with concrete in Kotka.
The system will then be shipped via Finnish ports and laid down between the Bay of Vyborg and Helsinki, reports Risto Virtanen, the director in charge of trade and business operations in the City of Kotka.
According to Virtanen, another intermediate storage facility has been planned for the lengths of pipe in the port of Hanko, from where smaller ships will feed pipes to the vessel which does the actual laying down of the pipeline.
The coating of two parallel pipes will take for approximately four years. Virtanen estimates that the pipe-laying vessel will be able to install three kilometres of pipes per day, which means that the installation of the entire 1,200-kilometre pipeline would take some 400 days.
The City of Kotka has leased the storage area in the Mussalo port area to Eupec for four years, and the lease period can be extended if necessary. The coating factory will have a fixed contract of 50 years.
After the coating, the property could be used for another purpose.
Approximately 370 pipes arrived in Kotka on Monday, while a further 1,500 pipes will be brought to Finland in the course of the summer.
The transportation of the pipes to Kotka is a violation against international agreements, says MP Heidi Hautala (Green League). She has submitted a written inquiry to the government on the matter.
”The premature transportation of the gas pipes means in practice that the construction has started. It is in conflict with the so-called Espoo Convention”, argues Hautala.
The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, the Espoo Convention, was ratified by Finland in 1995, coming into force in 1997.
”According to the Espoo Convention, the parties have to make sure that the environmental impact assessment is made before decision-making in certain matters, including large-diameter oil and gas pipes”, Hautala continues.
However, Nord Stream wants to be able to hit the ground running, and intends to make sure that when the permits from the five coastal states come, the pipes are ready for installation.
This requires that they are covered with a 9cm thick concrete shell that both protects the pipe itself and helps to lower it firmly to the sea bottom.
The French company Eupec Pipecoatings, a part of the large Indonesian group Korindo, will have two plants for the purpose - one in Kotka and another larger facility in Mukran, at the German end of the planned pipeline.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Gas pipeline route survey reveals effects of pollution on Baltic Sea bottom (23.4.2008)
Coastal states in Baltic Sea region reject tight schedule of planned gas pipeline (6.6.2008)
Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, the Espoo Convention
Nord Stream (Wikipedia)