French energy producer EDF will sign an agreement to join the South Stream gas pipeline project with Russia's energy giant Gazprom and Italy's Eni during the International Economic Forum due in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg on June 17-19, Gazprom has said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced on Monday that Gazprom and Eni will each give 10% of their shares in the project to EDF.
The South Stream project will pump 63 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually to Bulgaria, Italy and Austria and is part of Russia's efforts to cut dependence on transit nations, particularly Ukraine and Turkey. It is widely considered a rival project to the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, which is also intended to transport Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe, but bypassing Russia.
The gas pipeline is expected to start operating in late 2015 and account for about 35% of Russian natural gas supplies to Europe. It will run under the Black Sea from the Russian port of Novorossiysk to the Bulgarian port of Varna.
Austria was recently also brought into the project after the final documentation necessary for the go-ahead of the pipeline was signed in Vienna during a visit by Putin.
Investment in the project is estimated at 25 million euros ($32.8 million).
Russia is also building the Nord Stream gas pipeline to carry 55 billion cu m of Russian natural gas annually to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea.
MOSCOW, April 29 (RIA Novosti)