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South Stream pushes to join there here and now

South Stream is moving away from the drawing board, with handshakes this week in Milan Belgrade and Saint Petersburg, underlining its approaching reality.

With Turkey’s approval for feasibility studies to begin in its waters, analysts like Dmitry Lutyagin, from Veles Capital, are also seeing the chance that on land pipelines slated for Bulgaria may also go to the Turks.

“Now there are two probable routes . Through Bulgaria and Turkey which is interested in pulling the pipeline to it's territory to get extra gains, like payment for transit, and to see other project unfolding like Blue Stream 2. Closer relations with Turkey might insure that South Stream will go through it's territory and not Bulgaria, where the newly elected government decided to reconsider earlier agreements signed with Russia.”

Progress on the new southern route for gas into Europe might see the scheduled operation dates advancing. Taking in consideration the latest developments, South Stream might be realized earlier than North Stream, according to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. That will mean Russian gas will flow to Europe under the Black Sea from 2015

Nordstream, the new northern route for gas going under the Baltic into Germany has long been expected to be up and running first, but it still requires agreement with 3 nations. Aton analyst, Vyacheslav Bunkov, says the comparison implied by the Prime Minister comments was about construction timeframes.

“Nord Stream officially started in 2005. Its construction is taking 5 to 6 years. I think during talks the Prime Minister meant that the construction of South Stream will take less time – like 4 years. The shorter the construction period, the more funds required, taking in consideration that the project has a record budget of $37 billion.”

A rebounding European economy will soon see EU gas demand return to pre crisis levels. The concerns about Ukraine’s ability to pay for its gas haven’t gone away, meaning that the risk of another European shut off remains. But the news that South Stream could be in action sooner than expected underlines Russia’s ability to remain a stable supplier to European customers.