Nabucco pipeline sponsors seek supplier support

Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, following a 3-day visit to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, plans to organize a summit meeting in Budapest later this year to boost support for the Nabucco pipeline project.

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, July 14 -- Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, following a 3-day visit to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, plans to organize a summit meeting in Budapest later this year to boost support for the Nabucco pipeline project.

Government spokesman David Daroczi said the Hungarian prime minister initiated a summit meeting with the participation of all players in the Nabucco project: its shareholders, transit countries, and supply countries.

The consortium planning the 3,300-km pipeline is comprised of Turkey's state-owned Botas, Hungarian oil and gas company MOL Nyrt, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz, Romania's Transgaz, Germany's RWE AG, and Austria's OMV AG, each holding a 15% stake.

"We sense that Nabucco could be developing much faster," Daroczi said following Gyurcsany's visit to the Caspian nations earlier this week.

Construction of the line, which will extend from the Caspian Sea to Austria via Turkey and the Balkan states, is scheduled to begin in 2009 and complete in 2013. It will carry some 31 billion cu m of gas/year to the European Union from the Middle East and Central Asia.

The EU, and Hungary in particular, sees the Nabucco project as a means to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, and it wants to secure supply commitments from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

However, Hungary has expressed concern that the project could be undermined by recent negotiations over gas prices between Russia and the two Caspian nations.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attempted to further those negotiations on July 3-4 during his own visit to the Caspian region, aiming in particular to secure the 25-year gas supply deal signed in 2003 by the former leaders of both countries.

While Turkmenistan assured Russia of its commitment to the agreement, the two sides did not agree on the most crucial question, the price for which Russian Gazprom will buy Turkmen gas.

According to Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, who said price negotiations would start this week, the Russian firm is ready to pay Turkmenistan European rates for the gas, starting in 2009.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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