Russian Press Downplays South Stream Contract with Bulgaria
Russia made a step towards the realization of the South Stream gas line Saturday, but actual construction will not start for years, the Moscow daily "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" writes Monday.
According to the article, in order to begin construction works all countries, participating in the project, must reach a common decision on investments.
The paper gives an account of the visit of Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, to Sofia Saturday for a round of energy talks with Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borisov, explaining a joint Bulgarian-Russian company is to be set by the end of the month, to prepare the project's pre-investment stage.
"The establishment of a joint company in general does not make the destiny of real construction clearer. This would happen only when an investment decision is made, but the perspectives here are very difficult to forecast," expert Mihail Krutin points out cited by "Nezavisimaya Gazeta."
Krutin further says the fact many of the countries participants in the project recently faced bankruptcy makes the issue with the investments even more uncertain, reminding a number of agreements have been signed on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil line, but this project has stalled at its initial stage and its fate is unknown.
The South Stream gas transit pipeline is supposed to be ready by 2015. Its construction is expected to cost between EUR 19 B and EUR 24 B. It will be transporting 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, or 35% of Russia's total annual natural gas export to Europe.
The South Stream pipe will start near Novorosiysk on the Russian Black Sea coast, and will go to Bulgaria's Varna; the underwater section will be 900 km long.
In Bulgaria, the pipe is supposed to split in two - one pipeline going to Greece and Southern Italy, and another one going to Austria and Northern Italy through Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.
The project was initiated by Gazprom and the Italian company Eni, and the French company EdF is also planned to join as a shareholder. It is seen as a competitor to the EU-sponsored project Nabucco seeking to bring non-Russian gas to Europe.
At a recent meeting in St. Petersburg, Berlusconi and Putin welcomed the idea of having German companies join in as shareholders. There is no indication as to how the joining of RWE or some other German company would re-apportion the stakes.
The ownership of the Russian-Bulgarian joint company to build and manage the Bulgarian South Stream section will be split 50-50%.
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