Decision on gas pipeline to Austria possible in Dec.

VIENNA (Reuters) – A group of companies including Austria’s OMV seeking to build a gas pipeline from Turkey to Austria may decide as soon as next month whether the project will go ahead, the head of the consortium’s study group said yesterday. Oil and gas firm OMV is one of five companies proposing to build the Nabucco gas pipeline for 4.6 billion euros ($6 billion) from Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary in order to feed Europe’s growing hunger for imported gas. Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the Nabucco Company Pipeline Study Group GmbH, said results of a feasibility study would be presented to the consortium’s steering committee in mid-December. After that, the consortium would decide in December or January on how to proceed, he told Reuters in an interview. «I assume that we will go ahead, that the project will be realized,» Mitschek said. The pipeline would give Europe a new supply line for Iranian or Caspian gas via Turkey. OMV’s partners in the consortium are Turkey’s state natural gas company Botas, Hungarian oil and gas firm MOL, Romania’s Transgaz and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz. The consortium in August named Dutch bank ABN AMRO as financial adviser to the project. Mitschek said construction of the 3,200-km pipeline could begin in mid-2006, with operation starting in late 2009. The pipeline would have a starting capacity of 4-5 billion cubic meters per year and could wind up carrying as much as 30 billion cubic meters annually. Once at the Austrian terminal in Baumgarten, the gas could be moved through existing and expanded pipelines to Germany, France, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, Mitschek said.