Russian cos. may hold controlling stake in Black Sea pipeline

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ATHENS, September 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russian companies may hold a controlling stake in an ambitious oil pipeline in the Balkans designed to bypass congested shipping lanes, the head of Russia's state-controlled oil company Rosneft said Monday.

The Russian, Bulgarian and Greek governments signed a memorandum on the construction of a pipeline stretching 280 kilometers (175 miles) from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Greece's Alexandroupolis on the Aegean in April 2005.

"Russian companies, as companies that supply the pipeline with oil, may have a controlling stake," Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov said.

The project, which is expected to cost around $1 billion, will allow Russia to export oil through the Black Sea, bypassing the often crowded Bosporus Strait in Turkey. Initial throughput capacity will be 35 million metric tons annually (255 million bbl), before rising to 50 million metric tons (370 million bbl).

Bogdanchikov said the members of the pipeline building consortium were yet to be finalized, though he added that Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, Russian-British oil venture TNK-BP and other companies, were interested in the project.

Bogdanchikov said he believed the pipeline could be commissioned in 2009-2010.

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