* Pipeline partner proposal due by end March
* No one has been eliminated yet
VIENNA Jan 25 The consortium developing the Shah Deniz II gas field in Azerbaijan hopes to propose a pipeline partner within weeks, an official said on Wednesday.
"We are moving towards hopefully forming a recommendation, certainly by the end of the first quarter," Steve Garlick, marketing manager of BP Shah Deniz Development, told the European Gas Conference.
Three international consortia - Nabucco, TAP, and ITGI - are competing to build the infrastructure to carry gas from the giant field to Europe.
Producers in the Shah Deniz II field, led by BP and Statoil, plan to ship around 16 billion cubic meters a year through Turkey into Europe from 2017 or 2018.
Garlick later told reporters the consortium had not yet eliminated any suitors in the pipeline contest.
"Everyone is still in the running, very much," he said.
"None of the three projects is sufficiently de-risked that we would want to choose one of them," he added. "Each of them we feel needs to do some work."
If it can't choose a pipeline partner at the end of March, the group could fall back on its South-East Europe Pipeline (SEEP) to buy time to sort out any remaining issues, he said
"We have put a lot of resource behind our own SEEP project just to make sure that we do have an option when we get to the middle of 2013 where you have to press the button on $15 billion plus of expenditure" for Shah Deniz II, he said.