Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline deal likely by year’s end

photo31.jpgThe Greek and Russian foreign ministers voiced hope Wednesday (November 22nd) that a long-delayed pipeline project designed to carry Russian oil to Greece via Bulgaria will be officially given the go-ahead by the end of this year.

“Experts are working to finish drafting documents … and we expect the signing will take place before the end of the year,” Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov said after his meeting with Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis.

Concurring, Bakoyannis said, “the political volition exists on the part of all sides involved, and I am in the pleasant position to say that we are moving on the right path”.

The 285km pipeline is intended to carry Caspian crude oil from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis on Greece’s Aegean coast. The oil will be loaded at the Russian port of Novorossyisk and delivered via the Black Sea to Burgas, where Bulgaria will build a 50m-tonne storage facility. It will then be piped to Alexandroupolis, to go on to Western Europe and the United States.

It will allow Russia to bypass Turkey’s congested Bosphorus Strait, where oil tankers are delayed by days, and make Russian oil deliveries faster, safer and cheaper.

After more than 13 years of discussions on the project, the leaders of Bulgaria, Greece and Russia agreed in early September to speed up preparations, so that a trilateral agreement can be signed by the end of 2006.

One of the key obstacles barring the conclusion of a deal earlier was a dispute on the division of the three countries’ shares in the project. An agreement was reached at the end of last month, under which Russia’s Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom will own a combined 51% of the pipeline, while Bulgaria and Greece will each hold 24.5% of the shares.

The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline is among several projects being discussed as alternatives to shipping Caspian oil through the Bosphorus. A competing project, also involving Bulgaria, is the AMBO pipeline, designed to carry oil from the Caspian region to Burgas and then through Macedonia to Albania’s Mediterranean port of Vlore. Yet another proposal is for a pipeline to transport oil from Constanta in Romania, via the Serbian oil refinery in Pancevo and Omisalj in Croatia, to the Adriatic oil terminal of Trieste in Italy.

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