WARSAW/GDANSK (Reuters) - The Baltic Pipe project began sending gas to Poland at the start of this month, days after explosions damaged the Nord Stream network and eliminated the biggest Russian supply route to Europe. Below is a summary of facts around the pipeline's launch on Oct. 1, which marks the beginning of Europe's peak demand winter heating season.
The 900-kilometer (556-mile) pipeline pumps gas from Norway to Denmark and via the Baltic Sea to Poland. It also enables gas to flow to Denmark from Poland.
The joint project of Danish gas and electricity transmission system operator Energinet and Poland's GAZ-SYSTEM has capacity to transport 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to Poland and 3 bcm a year from Poland to Denmark.
Plans to build the link have taken nearly two decades to come to fruition. The project gained momentum after Danish and Polish pipeline operators signed a memorandum of understanding to build it in 2016.
WHY IT MATTERS
With winter approaching and Russian supplies on which Europe has relied for decades largely at a halt, Europe needs alternatives urgently.
EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said on Sept. 27 the Baltic Pipe was vital to Europe's security of supply.
Together with supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Baltic Pipe is central to Poland's plan to cut out Russian gas and become more energy independent.
The country stepped up its long-planned efforts after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has led to an energy stand-off as the West imposed sanctions Moscow has blamed for disrupting energy supplies.
In April, Gazprom halted deliveries to Poland, citing Warsaw's refusal to pay in roubles.
Baltic Pipe's capacity to deliver gas is dwarfed by Gazprom's Nord Stream 1 annual capacity of 55 bcm of gas per year and European Union imports of 155 bcm from Russia last year.
Its contribution, however, is significant when Gazprom's supplies via the Nord Stream network have been reduced to zero.
SECURITY CONCERNS The project crosses the damaged Nord Stream pipelines around the island of Bornholm, off the coast of Denmark.
Poland's prime minister has raised the country's security level on energy infrastructure outside its borders, the government's security centre said on Thursday.
A crime scene investigation of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines found evidence of detonations, strengthening suspicions of "gross sabotage", Sweden's Security Service said on Thursday.
GRADUAL START MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Some 5.6 million cubic meters (mcm) is being shipped daily this week via the Baltic Pipe filling 20% of the pipeline capacity of 27.4 mcm per day and covering about 15% of Poland's present demand.
The new source of supply should help to meet peak demand in the winter. Poland's daily use can top 60 mcm per day, when temperatures fall below zero Celsius (32°F) and as much as 80 mcm when temperatures fall to -15 C or lower.
Gazprom sends just over 40 mcm/day via Ukraine, one of the two still-functioning routes to supply Europe with Russian gas.
Baltic Pipe's capacity is likely to be curtailed until the end of November after concern over the impact on protected mice and bat species halted pipeline construction work in Denmark last year.
The full capacity of the link equates to half of Poland's 2021 roughly 20 bcm gas consumption. Demand this year is expected to drop to 18 bcm as high prices eroded demand.
Poland's top gas company PGNiG has booked some 80% of the link's capacity and said it will ship 6.5 bcm in 2023 and 7.7 bcm in the following year.
Most will come from PGNiG's production on the Norwegian continental shelf and a 10-year contract with Equinor signed days before the pipeline's launch.
Day-ahead gas prices on the Warsaw-based TGE commodity exchange fell from 939.61 zloty (193.32 euros) a megawatt-hour on Sept. 30 to 539.08 zloty/mwh on Oct. 6 as traders said the first week of Baltic Pipe flows lowered prices.
(1 euro = 4.8603 zlotys)
(Reporting by Marek Strzelecki and; Olivier Sorgho; editing by Barbara Lewis)