TAP and German energy company E.ON, a consortium member, said they started the pre-qualification process for steel pipe suppliers who want to submit an expression of interest in the project.
"The main goal of the pre-qualification is to ensure that there are enough high-quality steel pipes available on the market when TAP starts construction in 2015," Sigurd Hamre, project development director of TAP, said in a statement.
The planned 320-mile pipeline is meant to carry as much as 353 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year from Azeri areas of the Caspian Sea to European consumers. It's expected to take more than 400,000 tons of steel to build the pipeline.
The European Union is looking at projects like TAP, part of the so-called Southern Corridor, as a way to break the Russian grip on the energy sector. By next year, a BP-led group working in Azeri gas fields, should decide between Nabucco West, a scaled-down version of the larger $10 billion project, and TAP.