- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

ABUJA, Nigeria | Nigeria, Algeria and Niger have signed an agreement to build a $10 billion pipeline that would ship gas across the Sahara Desert to Europe, Nigeria’s state oil company said Friday.

The plan comes as Europe seeks new sources of gas imports. It currently depends on Russia for much of its needs.

The project was approved by energy ministers from all three governments, said Mohammed Barkindo, managing director of Nigeria’s state-owned oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. It is expected to come on line in 2015.

“The inter-governmental agreement that has been signed today between the government of Algeria, Niger and Nigeria gives this project official stamp of approval,” Mr. Barkindo said. “So it is a significant milestone.”

Nigeria’s energy minister, Rilwanu Lukmanu, said the countries are now looking for partners for the project.

“We will be talking to prospective partners who might be interested,” Mr. Lukmanu said.

Last month, Russia’s natural gas supplier Gazprom and Nigeria’s main oil company agreed to create a joint venture to explore and produce oil and gas in Africa’s most populous country. Gazprom’s chief in Nigeria has said the Russian firm would invest $2.5 billion in the new venture.

If Gazprom should gain control over Nigeria’s gas resources, that could strip European consumers of a possible alternative to Russian gas supplies.

It has been a difficult time for Gazprom, as production is declining and the severe financial crisis is forcing it to delay the launch of major new gas fields.

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