VIENNA, April 23 (UPI) -- Prequalification for long-lead items for the Nabucco pipeline started the procurement phase needed for pipeline construction, officials said Friday in Austria.
Nabucco Gas Pipeline International announced it started the prequalification process for items such as pipes and valves needed for pipeline construction.
Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the pipeline consortium, said these items are the "cornerstone" for pipeline construction. The process identifies companies most eligible for the work and gives the consortium the chance to survey the supplier market.
"The prequalification for long lead items is a substantial step toward starting construction at the end of 2011," said Mitschek.
Europe aims to break the Russian grip on the gas market with the Nabucco project. Despite widespread political support for the project, supplier nations have been slow to commit. A possible plan to bring liquefied natural gas across the Black Sea also threatens to undermine the need for the $10.5 billion pipeline.
The consortium added, with few specifics, that it has selected the route corridor for the first phase of the pipeline.
Nabucco would stretch some 2,000 miles from Turkey through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. Construction is to start it 2011 with first gas flowing by 2014.