September 18, 2008
India in Talks With Israel, Turkey for Oil Pipeline Project
By Indrani Bagchi
NEW DELHI: Senior Indian officials met their Turkish and Israeli counterparts in Ankara last week to work out the technical details of an offshore pipeline project to bring Central Asian and Russian oil to India.
The Medstream project, which is essentially a multi-purpose project connecting Turkey and Israel through the Mediterranean Sea, has interested India since Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan invited this country to join the project.
Government sources said India was interested in diversifying its energy sources but the project's economic feasibility was yet to be determined. India's primary interest in the project stems from the fact that it promises to reduce the time takes for oil tankers to come to India from around 40 days to barely 19 days.
Therefore, a team of officials met to work out the timelines for a feasibility study. According to sources, the feasibility study will begin in the next couple of months and should be completed in 10 months, at a cost of 8 million Euros. If the project is feasible, the construction of the project is slated to begin by the end of 2009.
In the wake of the Russia crisis, the proposed Nabucco pipeline may look uncertain, but Russia is reportedly interested in supplying oil to the Medstream project. Officials said Turkey has already got expressions of interest from Caspian sources like Azerbaijan. A ministerial meeting is already being planned and should happen in the next couple of weeks.
As a matter of fact, Russia's state-owned gas company, Gazprom, has also announced its participation in the Medstream project. Turkey has said it was in advanced negotiations with Russia over sourcing its gas for the project through the existing Blue Stream pipeline below the Black Sea.
The Medstream project involves a cluster of five pipelines to be built along an existing Ashkelong-Eilat route. The route will travel from the Black Sea oil terminal, Samsun, to Ceyhan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, and then through an undersea pipeline to Israel's Ashkelong port. It then takes the land route to Eilat in the Gulf of Aqaba. From there, supertankers will be deployed to carry the natural gas/oil to India over the high seas.
This way, India avoids two important bottlenecks and prospective security hurdles - the overcrowded Suez Canal (that is for oil coming from further westwards) and the long delays by carrying energy around the Cape of Good Hope.
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