Putin, Xi launch ‘historic’ Russian gas pipeline to China

An employee checks a gas valve at a compressor station, a part of Gazprom’s Power Of Siberia gas pipeline, outside the far eastern town of Svobodny, Russia. (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

Putin, Xi launch ‘historic’ Russian gas pipeline to China

  • The project is aimed at cementing Moscow’s role as the world’s top gas exporter

MOSCOW: Russia and China on Monday launched a giant gas pipeline linking the countries for the first time, one of three major projects aimed at cementing Moscow’s role as the world’s top gas exporter.

Presiding by video linkup over an elaborate televised ceremony, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hailed the “Power of Siberia” pipeline as a symbol of cooperation.

“Today is remarkable, a truly historic event not only for the global energy market, but first of all for us and for you, for Russia and China,” Putin said.

Xi said the project served as a model of cooperation.

“China-Russia relations are entering a new era,” Xi said. “Everyone worked hard.”The ceremony featured hard-hatted gas workers and videos showing the pipeline’s difficult path from remote areas of eastern Siberia to Blagoveshchensk on the Chinese border.

Workers burst into applause and celebratory music played as the CEO of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, speaking from the Amur region, ordered a valve opened for the gas to flow across the border.

The 3,000-km pipeline — which Putin has called “the world’s biggest construction project” — will supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually when fully operational in 2025.

Russia and China signed the 30-year, $400 billion construction deal in 2014 — Gazprom’s biggest ever contract.

The pipeline is part of Russia efforts to develop ties with Asia — in particular top energy importer China — amid longstanding tensions with the West.

Gazprom stressed that the pipeline ran through “swampy, mountainous, seismically active, permafrost and rocky areas with extreme environmental conditions.”

Temperatures along the route plunge to below -60 C in Yakutia and below -40 C in the Russian Far East’s Amur Region.

Work has also been completed on the first road bridge between Russia and China, further linking the two neighbors.

The bridge, which is to open next year, will connect the city of Blagoveshchensk and the northern Chinese city of Heihe.

Moscow, however, remains a key gas provider to Europe and is also planning to soon launch two more pipelines that will ramp up supplies to the continent while bypassing Ukraine — TurkStream and Nord Stream 2.

Analysts said the three projects have long-term economic and political benefits for Russia, which has inserted itself between European markets to the west and the rapidly growing Chinese market to the east.

“Russia is not only creating new income streams, but hedging its bets and bolstering its position strategically,” said energy analyst Andrew Hill.

“The ability to play one off against the other will not have been lost on either Gazprom or the Kremlin,” Hill, who leads the S&P Global Platts EMEA gas and power analytics team, wrote in a blog.


UK lends $22bn to small firms hit by coronavirus

Updated 27 May 2020

UK lends $22bn to small firms hit by coronavirus

  • The finance ministry offers banks a 100% credit guarantee on loans of up to $61,479
  • The money was lent to 608,069 small businesses as of May 24

LONDON: British small businesses have borrowed more than $22 billion under a government-guaranteed coronavirus credit program during its first three weeks of operation, outpacing bank lending under other schemes for bigger firms.
The finance ministry offers banks a 100% credit guarantee on loans of up to 50,000 pounds under its Bounce Back Loan Scheme, after an 80% guarantee slowed lending under an earlier program.
The BBLS has lent $22.74 billion to 608,069 small businesses as of May 24, up from $17.36 billion by May 17.
By contrast an earlier program that lends up to 5 million pounds, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, has only lent $10 billion since its launch in March.
Banks have approved about half of loan applications under CBILS so far, compared with 79% for the BBLS.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak initially opposed offering full state guarantees for bank lending, due partly to the risk of bad debts, but allowed it for the smallest firms after pressure from business groups, legislators and the Bank of England.