VIENNA, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Nabucco natural gas pipeline consortium said 2011 is a key year for the project as leading European energy officials head to gas-rich Central Asia.
Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the Nabucco pipeline consortium in Vienna, said he welcomed the planned visit of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to lobby for the gas pipeline.
The spokesman said in a statement that 2011 was a "key year" for Nabucco, with major decisions expected for the multibillion-dollar pipeline.
"This is why the EU needs to build on its relationships with potential source countries for Nabucco, such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan," he said in his statement. "With Central and Western Europe facing a considerable shortfall in its energy supply over the next two decades and gas prices expected to increase as domestic production declines, unlocking untapped supplies and transporting them to Europe will be of utmost importance."
Europe aims to break Russia's grip on the regional energy sector by transporting non-Russian gas supplies through Nabucco. Despite political support for the project, it lacks formal commitments from key supplier nations.
Critics complain that if Russian gas monopoly Gazprom gets it way with rival South Stream pipeline, there will be few alternative gas suppliers left to fill Nabucco.