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22 Feb, 2010 08:07

Nord Stream commencement has South Stream players looking to move quickly

The impending construction of the Nord Stream pipeline across the Baltic, is stoking interest in its Black Sea counterpart - the South Stream project.

Greece, Romania and Turkey have been among the nations talking up South Stream over the last week. Romania is expressing an interest in the project for the first time, while Greece is moving to create the joint venture – the South Stream Project company – with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou pushing to get things started.

“As for the South Stream, we are ready to sign an agreement to create a joint venture and we are ready to keep on working to make the project happen.”

The South Stream gas pipeline is to pass under the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria, bypassing Ukraine, and splitting into 2 European branches. Bulgarian officials that earlier had been mildly lukewarm about the project, were upbeat about it during a working visit by Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller to Bulgaria. They discussed the pre-investment stage of the project, meaning that Bulgaria is in, with Russian Energy Minister, Sergey Shmatko focussing on communications developments.

“Bulgaria is the most important partner for us in the realisation of the South Stream project. We already have a number of agreements and are working on creating a project entity, and we also have agreed that an inter governmental commission will create a special monitoring group to identify apparent gaps in communication and help to avoid them.”

The black sea waters might see the start of construction after the Turks give their approval – which is expected towards the end of the year. Meanwhile Russia and Turkey are deepening their energy links in other fields with officials from the two nations meeting almost monthly. Russia is bidding to construct nuclear power stations in Turkey, and Turkey is looking for oil supplies for its Sumsun-Ceyhan pipeline. The familiarity of key energy officials with each other is another factor increasing the likelihood of South Stream being built.