Italy's biggest oil and gas company Eni SpA and Russia's state gas giant OAO Gazprom on Saturday announced they have agreed to study the feasibility of building a pipeline under the Black Sea to transport Russian gas to the European Union countries.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on the project, Eni chief Paolo Scaroni and a top Gazprom executive, Alexander Medvedev, told a press conference here.
The capacity of the pipeline, to be determined by the feasibility study, could reach 30 billion cubic meters, said Medvedev.
The feasibility study has already started and would take months, said Scaroni, expecting it would take three years to build the pipeline when all authorization is obtained, which means that construction would not begin until 2008 or 2009.
The pipeline, to be named as South Stream, "aims to strengthen energy security in Europe," said Italian Minister of Economic Development Pierluigi Bersani, who also attended the signing ceremony.
The project is also aimed at "diversifying Russian gas supply routes toward European countries and at significantly contributing to Europe's energy security," Medvedev was quoted as saying by an Eni statement.