VILNIUSVILNIUS (Reuters) - Klaipeda's liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal operator says its gas could reach Poland, Ukraine and other countries south of Lithuania next year, when a new pipeline comes online.

The GIPL pipeline to Poland is due to be completed by December and will also give Finland, Estonia and Latvia access to LNG from continental Europe.

"It's likely the GIPL pipeline will flow solely from Lithuania to Poland", Mindaugas Navikas, Chief Sales Officer at the terminal's operator Klaipedos Nafta (KN) told Reuters in an interview.

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The link is designed to transport up to 21 terawatt-hours (TWh) of gas per year to Poland, or 27 TWh to Lithuania.

Arunas Molis, LNG director at KN said Poland, Ukraine and other countries to the south of Lithuania were likely destinations for gas from Klaipeda.

No terminal capacities have been booked for supply via GIPL, but Navikas said Orlen's decision to connect its 750 MW gas-fired power plant directly to GIPL is a "positive signal".

Lithuanian state-controlled energy company Ignitis Group, said last month it will start supplying LNG to Poland next year via the pipeline.

Russia's Gazprom lost a third of its share of the Finnish gas market last year, after a new pipeline made it possible to import LNG from Klaipeda.

The Klaipeda terminal imported 21.9 TWh of LNG in 2020, just over half of its annual capacity of 39 TWh.

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Klaipedos Nafta is now sounding out potential suppliers of floating storage and regasification units (FSRU), ahead of Dec. 2024 when its 10-year lease on the current FSRU called Independence, from Norway's Hoegh, runs out.

It has secured financing from the Nordic Investment Bank of up to 160 million euros for the purchase, and will launch a tender in July.

"We want a ship which is able to import as much LNG as the current one, or more", Navikas said.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alexander Smith)