Czech industry minister says hopes to save Poland pipeline project

The Czech government will talk with Poland in an effort to avoid scrapping a gas pipeline meant to connect the Czech system to a Polish LNG terminal and raise supply security, Czech Industry Minister Jan Mladek said on Thursday.

The planned Stork II pipeline, backed by 62.7 million euros ($69.7 million) in European Union funding, came into question when a Czech daily reported on Thursday that the Polish side may delay or back off the project.

“Some ideas that Stork is no longer such a priority emerged on the Polish side, but as I understand it, that is not the official position yet. It is an internal Polish debate,” Mladek told Reuters.

“I firmly hope that this stance will be modified, because we have European money approved there and we as the Czech Republic support this project,” he said.

He said he would discuss the plan with his Polish counterparts at the Krynica economic forum in September.

The Polish partner in the project, state-owned Gaz-System, said it would issue a statement later on Thursday.

Czech gas pipeline operator Net4gas said it was aware that the Polish administration was reviewing the country’s energy strategy, which may have an impact on gas projects. It gave no details on the state of Stork II.

Stork II is intended to have a capacity of 5 billion cubic metres a year and flow in both directions. It would connect the Czech system to the Swinoujscie liquefied natural gas terminal, which opened this year on the Polish Baltic coast.

It would thus improve supply reliability in the region, which is looking to decrease dependency on Russian gas.

But with German and Russian plans to expand the Nord Stream project, bringing gas from Russia directly to Germany and on to the Czech Republic, Poland fears the Stork II interconnector could end up bringing Russian gas to Poland, which Warsaw does not want, Czech daily Lidove Noviny said.

It said delays in the project would effectively kill it because EU funding would fall through.

Mladek said the Czech Republic, connected to pipelines from Ukraine and Slovakia in the east and Germany in the west, did not see Stork as a must-have but believed it would be beneficial to both countries, and especially Poland by giving it a connection to the south.

Separately, Poland and Slovakia are planning another north-south connection across their border. ($1 = 0.9001 euros) (Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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