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Nabucco trans-Caspian gas pipe project unrealistic - EU official

The Nabucco project to build a trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline to Europe bypassing Russia is impracticable, the general secretary of the EU Energy Charter Secretariat said on Monday.

The $6 billion pipeline project is expected to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009, so that the pipeline could go on stream in 2012. “The project’s implementation in uncertain circumstances in areas close to the Black Sea region is extremely difficult,” Andre Mernier said in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.

The European Union wants the project to diversify its supply routes away from Russia and to boost European energy security. However, Mernier said it would be difficult to find investors for the project due to the high costs and enhanced risks as it was uncertain whether the problems in Iran and Iraq would be solved. In addition, the Caspian Sea region has insufficient gas reserves to implement the Nabucco project, he said.

Nabucco, planned as an arm of the South Caucasus pipeline, is seen as a rival to the gas pipeline deal clinched by Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the region’s major gas producers, in May. The three former Soviet allies agreed to build a pipeline along the Caspian Sea coast to pump billions of cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan into Russia’s network of pipelines running to Europe. (Ria Novosti)