Italy and Greece will sign today an agreement for the construction of a 300-million-euro pipeline that will carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea and Iran to Western Europe when it is completed, at the end of 2009. The 212-kilometer (130-mile) mostly underwater pipeline will be built by Poseidon, a company due to be set up by Greece’s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and Italy’s Edison, with each owning a 50 percent stake in Poseidon. The pipeline, running from the Greek port of Stavrolimenas, near the town of Igoumenitsa, in northwest Greece, to Otranto in southeast Italy, will have a diameter of 32 inches and a capacity of 8 billion cubic meters (282 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year. Initially, however, it will only operate at about 25 percent capacity. In order for Caspian gas to reach Italy, two other projects must be completed: a pipeline from western Turkey to the Greek town of Komotini, and a 300-kilometer link connecting Greece’s backbone gas pipeline network with Stavrolimenas. The latter is being built at DEPA’s expense and will cost 600 million euros. The agreement for the Greece-Italy pipeline will be signed in the Italian town of Lecce by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Italian Minister for Productive Activity Claudio Scajola. Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Hilmi Guler will also attend the ceremony. The Greek delegation will also include Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis, DEPA Chairman Raphael Moysis and high-ranking officials from the Development and Foreign Affairs ministries. The construction of these pipelines will turn Greece into a transit hub for natural gas to Western Europe. Initially, the natural gas will come from the Caspian Sea, via Azerbaijan and Turkey. Eventually, gas from Iran and Turkmenistan, and also from Siberia, via Russia and Turkey, will also run through the pipeline. The project is one of the European Union’s five Trans-European Energy Networks, which are considered priority projects. Italian financial paper Il Sole 24 Ore wrote yesterday that the pipeline will be especially important as natural gas deposits in the North Sea are declining, adding that the World Bank has approved aid of 21 billion euros for the modernization of the gas transport network in Greece, Turkey and other Balkan countries.