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.


China's aviation regulator raised concerns with Boeing on 737 MAX design changes

Updated 12 December 2019

China's aviation regulator raised concerns with Boeing on 737 MAX design changes

  • China is reviewing the airworthiness of the plane
  • China was first country to ground plane in March

BEIJING: China’s aviation regulator raised “important concerns” with Boeing Co. on the reliability and security of design changes to the grounded 737 MAX, it said on Thursday, but declined to comment on when the plane might fly again in China.
China is reviewing the airworthiness of the plane based on proposed changes to software and flight control systems according to a bilateral agreement with the United States, Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) spokesman Liu Luxu told reporters at a monthly briefing.
He reiterated that for the plane to resume flights in China, it needed to be re-certified, pilots needed comprehensive and effective training to restore confidence in the model and the causes of two crashes that killed 346 people needed to be investigated with effective measures put in place to prevent another one.
China was the first country to ground the 737 MAX after the second crash in Ethiopia in March and had set up a task force to review design changes to the aircraft that Boeing had submitted.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not allow the 737 MAX to resume flying before the end of 2019, its chief, Steve Dickson, said on Wednesday.
Once the FAA approves the reintroduction into service, the 737 MAX can operate in the United States, but individual regulators could keep the planes grounded in other countries until they complete their own reviews.
“Due to the trade war, the jury is still out on when China would reintroduce the aircraft,” said Rob Morris, Global Head of Consultancy at Ascend by Cirium.
Chinese airlines had 97 737 MAX jets in operation before the global grounding, the most of any country, according to Cirium Fleets Analyzer.