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Doubts emerge over South Stream progress

Dec. 7, 2012 at 9:19 AM   |   Comments

BRUSSELS, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A natural gas analyst states that Russian energy company Gazprom hasn't ordered pipes for South Stream, though a groundbreaking ceremony occurred Friday.

Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the South Stream natural gas pipeline in Anapa on the Black Sea coast. In November, his company said it had the final investment decisions in hand to move forward with the project's construction.

Jonathan Stern, a natural gas analyst at Oxford University, told Radio Free/Europe Radio Liberty that Gazprom hasn't ordered pipeline for the project. That suggests the company can't "start laying the offshore section until 2014 (at the) earliest," he said.

South Stream would run through the Turkish waters of the Black Sea to Bulgaria. From there, it would run through Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria before connecting to Eni's distribution network in Italy.

Marlene Holzner, a spokeswoman for the EU energy commissioner, told RFE/RL that Gazprom hasn't issued a formal route declaration, however.

"That means where South Stream starts, where it ends, and which countries the exact route goes through ... has not been done," she said.

South Stream is part of Gazprom's options for diversifying its transit options for European consumers. Its Nord Stream pipeline is carrying natural gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany, though much of Russia's gas runs through Soviet-era networks in Ukraine.

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