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Official: Study to Decide if South Stream Will Pass through Slovenia

Moscow/Ljubljana, 18 November (STA) - Russian energy giant Gazprom has not yet decided whether to route its South Stream gas pipeline through Slovenia. The decision on this will be based on a feasibility study that is nearing completion, officials from the two countries have said.

Head of the Energy Directorate at the Slovenian Economy Ministry Janez Kopac confirmed that Gazprom and Slovenian partner Geoplin Plinovodi are currently conducting a feasibility study that will answer the question on whether the South Stream pipeline will pass from Hungary to Slovenia or Austria.

The more realistic scenario is that the gas pipeline will pass through Slovenia on to Italy, although there is a possibility of the alternate route, said Kopac. "We have assessed that it is more likely that the route will pass through Slovenia than Austria."

Kopac explained for the STA that Gazprom never defines in advance exactly where its pipelines will be routed. Slovenia has been mentioned throughout as a potential route for South Stream, he added.

His comments come after the head of the project management department at Gazprom, Leonid Chugunov, told journalists in Moscow on Wednesday that the decision on whether to route the pipeline from Hungary to Slovenia will be based on a feasibility study.

The study being carried out with Slovenia is expected to be completed by the end of the year, added Chugunov.

Meanwhile, Gazprom vice chairman Alexander Medvedev told a meeting with journalists from countries participating in the South Stream project that relations between Russia and Slovenia were very good.

"We have very good relations despite Russia's loss at the hands of Slovenia in qualifications for the World Cup," he said in a reference to November's surprise win by Slovenia to secure its participation in the second ever World Cup.

Meanwhile, Kopac explained that Geoplin Plinovodi and Gazprom were working at full speed on the feasibility study. He said it should be completed within a month to a month and a half.

Kopac added that if the pipeline was routed through Slovenia, a decision would also have to be made on whether it should exit the country at Nova Gorica (a town bordering Italy) or Ratece (near the tri-border with Italy and Austria).

Slovenia and Russia signed an agreement on the Slovenian leg of the South Stream pipeline almost exactly a year ago.

The signing marked the end of long and tough negotiations in which the two countries had to work out important details, including the ownership of the company which would build the Slovenian leg of the gas pipeline.

Scheduled for completion in 2015, the EUR 10bn pipeline with a capacity of around 60 billion cubic metres of gas will cross several countries in southeastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Greece, although the exact route is yet to be defined.

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