Germany's RWE and Gaz de France have announced an interest in co-financing the Nabucco pipeline project, which has been delayed due to financing problems and competing Central Asian pipeline deals steered by Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Speaking at a Financial Times conference on 14 September, Stefan Judisch, CEO of RWE Gas Midtream, stated his company's willingness to invest €1 billion into the Nabucco pipeline. Gaz de France's CEO Jean-Marie Dauger also expressed the French energy giant's interest in the project.
The backing of German and/or French energy giants would give a boost to the Nabucco project, which has been plagued with financial difficulties. An increase in global steel prices has pushed up expected project costs, and the existing consortium - composed of OMV (Austria), Botas (Turkey), Mol (Hungary), Transgaz (Romania), and Bulgargaz (Bulgaria) - has so far failed to reach a financing agreement.
Nabucco, which is geo-politically significant because it would bypass Russia (see our LinksDossier), has also encountered difficulties unrelated to financing.
In June, Italian gas giant Eni and Russia's Gazprom agreed to co-operate on a new pipeline that will transit Central Asian gas through Russia. The deal was widely seen as a rival to Nabucco (EurActiv 25/06/07).
But the European Commission appears determined to see the project through. On 12 September, it nominated Dutch Foreign Minister Jozias van Aartsen as "Nabucco project co-ordinator", and at a conference in Budapest last week (14 September), Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: "Europe is united in its determination to go ahead with this key project."
Piebalgs' comments came partially in response to an announcement made earlier in the week (12 September) by Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Guyrcsany, in support of the project. Guyrcsany's endorsement seemed to contradict comments made in March that Nabucco lacked political and financial backing and was a "long dream".
Once completed, the Nabucco pipeline will span 3,400 kilometres, bringing 31 billion cubic tonnes of gas per year from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan across Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary into Austria.
Proposed by the Commission in 2002, Nabucco is seen as a flagship project, symbolic of Europe "speaking with one voice" on energy policy while diversifying the EU's gas supply.