Gazprom to Build Gas Storage Unit

FRANKFURT -- Gazprom, the world's biggest natural gas exporter, plans to build Europe's largest storage facility for the fuel to supply a new pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The facility in Hinrichshagen, northeastern Germany, will hold as much as 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas, Burkhard Woelki, spokesman for Gazprom's German unit, said by telephone Wednesday from Berlin. Construction will start in 2009 and cost 420 million euros ($620 million), he said.

Gazprom's Nord Stream pipeline is scheduled to start carrying natural gas 1,200 kilometers under the Baltic to Germany in 2010 as the Russian exporter seeks to avoid transit countries like Belarus and Ukraine. Gazprom, which feeds one-quarter of Europe's gas demand, wants to plug directly into markets in northwestern Europe and raise export capacity by one-third.

The Wingas storage facility in Rehden, northern Germany, can hold 4.2 billion cubic meters of gas.