May 8 (UPI) -- With construction of a pipeline through Turkey under way, regional customers can expect a more reliable natural gas option in two years, Russia's Gazprom said.
Russian energy company Gazprom said construction of a pipeline known variably as TurkStream or Turkish Stream started during the weekend from the Russian waters in the Black Sea.
"We started the practical implementation of the TurkStream gas pipeline project: pipe-laying within the offshore section," Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller said in a statement. "By late 2019, our Turkish and European consumers will have a new, reliable source of Russian gas imports."
The pipeline's route would mirror the now-abandoned South Stream project and run under the Black Sea to Turkey and then to the European market. South Stream was scrapped because of concerns about Russian business practices expressed by some European countries.
The start of the project's construction follows a state visit to Moscow by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey aims to capitalize on its geographic position by becoming an energy bridge between Central Asian and Middle East suppliers and the European market.
In March, Russia and Turkey signed a series of trade and economic agreements aimed at broadening the bilateral level of cooperation.
Gazprom said the first leg of the pipeline would primarily feed the Turkish market, with the second leg expected for southern European demand.
Geopolitical issues associated with conflict between Ukraine and Russia complicate regional energy security. Europe aims to diversify its energy sector away from Russia and parts of a broader network of pipelines dubbed the Southern Corridor would carry gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey to Europe.