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Construction of ESPO Chinese pipeline leg could begin in April

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The construction of the Chinese section of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline could begin in April, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said on Thursday.
SEOUL, February 19 (RIA Novosti) - The construction of the Chinese section of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline could begin in April, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said on Thursday.

"The construction will begin as soon as China starts transferring [its $25 billion loan to Russian state-controlled crude producer Rosneft and pipeline operator Transneft]" Sechin, who is responsible for the fuel and energy sector in the Russian government, said. "Probably, in April if everything goes as scheduled."

Transneft head Nikolai Tokarev confirmed that the construction would begin in April saying that "the funds are available."

On Tuesday Russia and China signed an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of a branch of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline toward China and long-term Russian oil supplies.

Under the agreement, Russia will supply 15 million metric tons (110 million barrels) of crude annually for 20 years to China. China, in turn, will provide $25 billion in loans to Rosneft and Transneft.

Sechin praised the deals as a "breakthrough," saying that "$25 billion is a unique deal in the history of the global economy."

The ESPO pipeline is currently under construction and expected to start pumping its first oil in late 2009.