Russian, Italian firms agree to speed up gas pipeline project

January 16th, 2009 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Jan 16 (RIA Novosti) Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, the heads of Gazprom and Italy’s Eni have agreed to speed up the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, the Russian energy giant has said.The South Stream project is a new pipeline under the Black Sea which will serve as another route to transit Russian gas to Europe.

“Gazprom and Eni agreed to speed up the work of the joint working group with preparations for the South Stream project,” Gazprom said in a statement late Thursday.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and his Eni counterpart Paolo Scaroni held a working meeting at Gazprom’s headquarters Thursday. The two officials discussed the “critical situation in relations with Ukraine and on the moves being made by Gazprom to end the crisis”, according to the statement.

Italy is the second largest importer of Russian gas in Europe.

The Russian energy giant has accused Ukraine’s Naftogaz of refusing to transit gas to Europe citing the absence of “technical” gas, the amount of gas it says necessary to transit Russian gas further to Europe.

“The sides noted that in these conditions the issue of diversifying export gas routes, in particular the fulfilment of the South Stream project, that would link Russia directly with Europe and strengthen the energy security of the continent, is very topical,” the statement said.

Russia is currently building the Nord Stream pipeline, a joint project with Germany to pump gas from Siberia to Europe under the Baltic Sea, and the South Stream pipe which will bring gas to the Balkans and on to Europe.

The first deliveries along the South Stream pipeline are scheduled to start in 2013. The project, expected to annually pump 30 billion cubic meters of Central Asian and Russian gas to the Balkans and on to other European countries, involves Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Italy and Greece.

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