May 18, 2009

Russia, Italy, double pipeline plans

Russian natural gas giant Gazprom and Italian gas company Eni agreed to double the capacity of the proposed South Stream natural gas pipeline.

Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller and Eni CEO Paulo Scaroni signed an agreement to raise the capacity to 63 billion cubic meters a year. The Moscow Times reported Monday.

Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi were in attendance, the Times said.

The pipeline crossing the Black Sea to Bulgaria is likely to include branches to Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Greece, as well as to Italy. It is expected to cost $11.6 billion, the Times said.

Construction is expected to be completed by 2015.

We "¦ see the potential for this deadline to be moved forward, and we will do our best for the project to begin operation earlier, Miller said.

On Friday, Gazprom signed agreements with energy companies from Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece to initiate construction studies. The company has not signed equivalent agreements with companies in Slovenia or Romania that are necessary to complete the links to Austria, the newspaper said.