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Agence France Presse

Balkans pipeline tipped for funding early in 2001. Tuesday, November 28, 2000

SOFIA, Nov 28 Financing for an oil pipeline stretching from Bulgaria to Albania should be decided by March 31 next year, the Balkan Pipeline Consortium said here Tuesday.

A decision on financing by major oil companies was expected "before the end of the first quarter," Balkan Pipeline Consortium (AMBO) chairman Ted Ferguson told a news conference in Sofia.

BP-Amoco, Exxon-Mobil, Texaco, Chevron, Unican and Coneco had already shown an interest in the pipeline, which would take oil from Bulgaria to Albania via Macedonia.

Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and Amoco, now held by British Petroluem, took part in another oil pipeline as part of the the Caspian Pipeline Consortium.

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium last week completed a two-billion-dollar oil pipeline linking resource-rich fields in western Kazakhstan to the Black Sea port of Novorossisk.

The project was expected to come on line in June 2001 with a capacity of 600,000 barrels a day.

The Balkans project would take four years, linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the Black Sea to the Albanian port of Vlore on the Adriatic with an 890 kilometer (550 mile) pipeline worth 1.13 billion dollars (1.33 billion euros).

The Balkan line would have a capacity of 750,000 barrels per day, according to Ferguson.

"The great progress achieved by the Caspian consortium guarantees that the necessary quantities of oil will be delivered," for the Balkans pipeline project to be launched, said the Bulgarian regional development minister, Yevgeni Chachev.

Bulgaria was ready to develop the project, along with another pipeline connecting Burgas to the Greek port of Alexandropolus on the Aegean, said Chachev.

The 700-million-dollar Bulgaria-Greece pipeline would stretch for 320 kilometers (200 miles) with an annual capacity of 40 million tonnes.

Ferguson said the two projects would bypass the Bosphorus Strait, which would be unable to ensure transport of all the oil coming from the Caspian Sea. He noted that the political situation in the Balkans had calmed considerably in the past three years, although the oil transport business was always risky.