Oettinger says Nabucco may be delayed

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The completion of the Nabucco gas pipeline may be delayed by four years to 2018, the European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in an interview published in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday (25 March).

"I hope we will take the final decision in 2010 to build the pipeline," he said, adding gas flows "it will probably be (in) 2018".

The EU-backed 3,300 kilometre pipeline, which could cost 7.9 billion euros ($10.6 billion), is designed to bring gas from Central Asia and Azerbaijan to the EU to diversify the bloc's gas sources and make it less dependent on main supplier Russia.

The project has already been subject to several delays.

But a spokesman for Germany's RWE, one of the operators in the consortium, said from Essen that there was no reasons to cast doubt on the present plans.

The Vienna-based consortium said it would send a statement later on Thursday which would clarify matters but a spokesman was not immediately able to comment on the newspaper report.

The consortium has previously said what will finally be a 31 billion cubic metre pipeline is expected to start transporting by 2014.

Other parties are Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL and Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish firms.

Oettinger said there will be a conference with all stakeholders in July, either in Brussels or in Istanbul.

Oettinger also said another project, Russia's South Stream to go across the bed of the Black Sea to bypass Ukraine, also needed to be built, complementing a third and most advanced project, the subsea Baltic Sea gas pipeline whose construction starts in April.

Ukraine's gas rows with Moscow have repeatedly cut off supplies to Europe.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

Up to now, two competing planned gas pipelines, Nabucco and South Stream, have had similar terms for beginning of construction and completion.

South Stream is a planned natural gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine, running under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, with one branch going to Greece and Italy, and another one to Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria. Russia recently announced that it would more than double its planned capacity from 31 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y) to 63 bcm/y (EURACTIV 18/05/09 and 25/05/09).

Another pipeline in the project phase, Nabucco, does not enjoy the favour of Russian state monopoly Gazprom. It widely resembles South Stream, but is intended to diversify the EU's supply countries, bringing gas to Europe from the Caucasus and the Middle East to a gas hub in Austria, via Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Nabucco consortium comprises leading European energy companies: OMV of Austria, MOL of Hungary, RWE of Germany, Bulgargaz of Bulgaria, Transgaz of Romania and Botas of Turkey. But three consortium members - OMV, MOL and Bulgargaz - have already signed up to Gazprom's South Stream pipeline, raising questions about conflicts of interest, or indeed their commitment to Nabucco.

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