Norway's Höegh picked for Lithuanian terminal

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13:49 CET+01:00
Lithuania announced on Monday it had picked Norwegian company Höegh LNG to build a liquefied natural gas terminal aimed at reducing the Baltic state's dependence on Russian supplies.

The 10-year lease contract is expected to be signed in February and the terminal will start operations by the end of 2014, state owned company Klaipedos nafta said in a statement.

"We have taken a very important step in implementing the LNG project," Rokas Masiulis, director general of Klaipedos nafta, said.

The other bidders were Norway's Golar LNG and US firm Excelerate Energy, the statement said.

Officials have said the terminal may cost some €200 million ($258 million).

Currently, Russian energy giant Gazprom is Lithuania's only natural gas supplier, via a pipeline across Belarus.

The Baltic nation of three million people, which declared independence in 1990 after five decades of Kremlin rule, has repeatedly locked horns with Gazprom, accusing it of abusing its market clout to impose unfair pricing.

Gazprom has denied the claims.

The gas dispute has fed into other wrangling between Moscow and Vilnius, whose ties have been particularly rocky since Lithuania joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.

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Lithuania has set 2014 as the deadline for an EU-piloted reform of its natural gas market.

The competition rules --- which bar suppliers from also running the gas-mains system -- poses a challenge to Gazprom, which owns 37.1 percent of Lithuania's gas-mains company Lietuvos dujos.

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