Russia and China signed on Tuesday an agreement for the construction of a pipeline branch to the energy-hungry Asian giant. The construction could start later this year. The branch, to run from Skovorodino to the Chinese border, would have a capacity of 15 million tons (110 million barrels) of oil a year.
The ESPO pipeline is designed to pump up to 1.6 million barrels (220,000 tons) of crude per day from Siberia to Russia's Far East and then on to China and the Asia-Pacific region. A 1,100-km (680-mile) stretch of the pipeline was opened in early October in Russia's Far Eastern republic of Yakutia.
ESPO's first stage envisages the construction of a 2,757-kilometer (1,713-mile) section with a capacity of 30 million tons (220 million barrels) of oil per year. It will link Taishet, in East Siberia's Irkutsk Region, to Skovorodino, in the Amur Region, in Russia's Far East.
The second stretch will run 2,100 kilometers (1,304 miles) from Skovorodino to the Pacific. It will pump 50 million tons (367.5 million barrels) of oil annually. The Taishet-Skovorodino capacity will later be raised to 80 million tons (588 million barrels).