ECONOMY

Pipeline decision in February

VIENNA (Reuters) – A consortium that hopes to build a pipeline delivering Middle Eastern and Caspian gas to central Europe said it could decide next month whether to go ahead with the 4.6-billion-euro ($6.09 billion) project. Austrian oil and gas group OMV AG and Hungary’s MOL are two of the five firms proposing to build the 3,400km (2,111-mile) pipeline from eastern Turkey to Austria. The consortium’s steering committee is due to meet in late February or early March and will probably decide whether to go ahead with the project then, said Reinhard Mitschek, Managing Director of the Nabucco Pipeline Study Group GmbH. «I assume that a decision will be reached at the end of February,» Mitschek said. The steering committee met in December but rather than deciding then, it requested that its economic and financial studies, which deal with the project’s financial needs and financing, be merged, he said. It also commissioned a «social impact study,» which Mitschek said was «important for the creditors.» OMV and MOL’s partners in the venture are Turkey’s Botas, Romania’s Transgaz and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, each of which has a 20 percent stake. In November Mitschek said «a whole portfolio» of suppliers could provide the pipeline with gas. In addition to Turkey’s current suppliers, Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan could deliver from 2006, he said. Other potential suppliers included Iraq, Syria and Egypt and, if a pipeline were built through the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, he said at the time. Contracts with suppliers are due to be negotiated this year. The pipeline would have an initial capacity of 4.5 billion cubic meters per year and a final capacity of up to 30 billion cubic meters a year.