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Siberian oil pipe construction could be delayed for six months

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MOSCOW, December 4 (RIA Novosti) - The construction of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline managed by state-run pipeline operator Transneft could be delayed for six months, the president of the Republic of Yakutia said on Tuesday.

The ambitious East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline is slated to pump up to 1.6 million barrels per day of crude from Siberia to Russia's Far East and then on to China and the Asia-Pacific region. The project's first leg, estimated at $11 billion, was expected to be commissioned in December 2008.

"Doubts have emerged lately about the timeframe for the project's implementation but this is a realistic task and the maximum delay could be six months," Vyacheslav Shtyrov said.

The Yakutian president said the problems with the timeframe were related to contractors, as Russia was currently building several major pipelines and was experiencing a shortage of qualified personnel.

"I believe there are no grounds for changing the timeframe, although there are some subjective reasons, including the new management of Transneft. At the same time, the project has got a good start and it is necessary to comply with the timeframe," Shtyrov said.

In the first stage, a 2,757-kilometer (1,713-mile) section will be built with a capacity of 30 million tons (220.5 million bbl) of oil per year. The project's first leg will link Taishet, in East Siberia's Irkutsk Region, to Skovorodino, in the Amur Region, in Russia's Far East.

The second leg will stretch for 2,100 kilometers (1,304 miles) from Skovorodino to the Pacific. It will pump 367.5 million barrels of oil annually. The second stage also envisages an increase in the Taishet-Skovorodino pipeline's capacity to 588 million barrels.

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