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Nabucco Sees Decision on Combination With Tanap Next Year

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, the 7.9 billion euro ($10.5 billion) project to ship Caspian fuel to Europe, expects to make a decision on whether to link up with the competing Trans-Anatolia Pipeline next year.

“The point of no return is a final investment decision” and “that will most likely be next year,” Nabucco Managing Director Reinhard Mitschek said today in Ankara, Turkey. “That is something we’re working on in a very concentrated and focused form within the Nabucco group, with Shah Deniz partners and others.”

Nabucco, which is slated to bring as much as 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year from the Caspian region to Austria starting in 2017, has repeatedly postponed its start date after struggling to secure fuel sources. The pipeline, a joint venture with six partners, may be linked up with rival efforts that meet its base-case benchmarks, Mitschek said.

BP Plc and its partners in the Caspian Sea Shah Deniz gas field plan to make a final decision on an export route to Europe by the middle of 2013. The group will choose between the European Union-backed Nabucco project and the South-East Europe Pipeline, or SEEP, by the middle of this year, Tamam Bayatli, a spokeswoman for the U.K. energy producer in the Azeri capital of Baku, said last month. BP proposed SEEP. Shah Deniz may hold as much as 1.2 trillion cubic meters of gas.

The Trans-Anatolia Pipeline, known as Tanap, is a venture between Turkey’s Botas and State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, or Socar, to carry gas to the EU’s southern border. The link has the advantage of a guaranteed supply and Nabucco should adapt its plans to reflect Tanap, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Feb. 28.

‘Important Decisions’

“This summer, end of June, there will be important decisions” that verge on discussions with Nabucco members, the Shah Deniz consortium and Socar, Mitschek said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to modify our timeline.”

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, and the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy, or ITGI, are also vying to carry gas from the Caspian region to Europe. Nabucco is a joint venture of Germany’s RWE AG, Vienna-based OMV AG, Budapest-based Mol Nyrt., Bulgargaz EAD, Romania’s Transgaz SA and Ankara-based Boru Hatlari ile Petrol Tasima AS, or Botas.

A smaller version of Nabucco, the so-called Nabucco West pipeline, may carry on through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria from where Tanap ends at the Turkish-Bulgarian border.

“If Tanap is realized we would like to link it to Nabucco West,” Mitschek said today. “That does not mean the Nabucco base case is dead forever.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Emre Peker in Ankara at epeker2@bloomberg.net; Zoe Schneeweiss in Vienna at zschneeweiss@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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