European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger confirmed Thursday that the Nabucco gas pipeline project would open as planned, reacting to a media report that quoted him as predicting a four-year delay until 2018.
A report by the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday sparked a reaction by the Vienna-based Nabucco consortium, which said it had no indication to change its schedule for the pipeline from Central Asia to Europe.
"I am sure that the first gas will flow at the end of 2014 and that the pipeline will reach its full capacity in 2018, as envisaged by the Nabucco timeline," Oettinger said in a statement issued by his office.
The European Union is investing 200 million euros (267 million dollars) in the project, which aims to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas.
Nabbuco's managing director Reinhard Mitschek said construction would start at the end of 2011.
Experts and critics of the project have said that it would be hard to get the gas contracts necessary to fill the pipeline which is planned to run from eastern Turkey to Vienna.
Mitschek said the capacity would be raised in steps, starting from between 8 and 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year and reaching the full capacity of 31 bcm per year by 2018.
Nabucco's German project partner RWE is currently working to secure supply from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, while oil and gas groups OMV in Austria and MOL in Hungary are concentrating on Iraq, Mitschek said in a recent interview with Austrian press agency APA.
The other companies involved in the 7.9-billion-euro deal are Turkey's BOTAS, Bulgarian Energy and Romania's Transgaz.
Meanwhile, Russia is developing its own new pipeline project, South Stream, which competes with Nabucco.
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