RWE says not in talks with Iran on Nabucco

FRANKFURT Sun Nov 1, 2009 11:14am EST

FRANKFURT Nov 1 (Reuters) - German utility company RWE (RWEG.DE) said it is not in talks with Iran regarding the country's participation in the 7.9 billion euro ($11.71 billion) Nabucco gas pipeline project.

A senior Iranian energy official said Tehran was holding "unofficial" talks with some European firms about its participation in Nabucco, the semi-official Mehr News agency reported on Saturday [ID:nDAH147337]

"Definitely, the Nabucco pipeline will not become operational in the absence of Iran," the news agency quoted Reza Kasaeizadeh, managing director of the state National Iranian Gas Export Company, as saying.

Nabucco plans to transport up to 31 billion cubic metres of gas a year from the Caspian region to an Austrian gas hub via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.

The pipeline, set to pump its first gas in 2014, should lessen Europe's dependence on Russian gas but faces competition from a similar project launched by Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM).

"We are not in talks with Iran on its participation in the Nabucco consortium or any gas supplies," a spokesman for RWE told Reuters.

He reiterated that RWE did not agree that Nabucco needed Iranian supplies to succeed and that gas from Azerbaijan, Iraq and Turkmenistan would be more than enough.

He said the first supply contracts are expected in the first half of the coming year.

He said Iran would remain a net importer of gas in the foreseeable future and the current political environment does not favour ties with Iran.

Nabucco's shareholders include Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI), Hungary's MOL MOLB.BU, Romania's Transgaz TGNM.BX, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz, Turkey's Botas and Germany's RWE (RWEG.DE). (Editing by David Cowell)