MILAN, July 16 (Reuters) - Italy's Environment Minister has signed a decree crucial for Spanish Gas Natural's (GAS.MC) project to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at the northern Italian port of Trieste, the ministry said on Thursday.
Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo has formalised with the decree a key environmental approval that her ministry gave to Gas Natural in June 2008. The company still needs to win regional approvals for its 8 billion cubic metres terminal.
Authorisation of big industrial projects is a notoriously lengthy process in Italy and involves negotiations on various administrative levels.
Gas Natural and its partners had spent four years getting 2008's approval from Italy's environment ministry. It has estimated costs at 500 million euros and expected to have the terminal on stream in 2012.
Italy relies on natural gas imports to cover more than 85 percent of its needs, mostly for power generation. It has one operating LNG terminal and a second one is due to become fully operating in the last quarter of 2009.
Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; Editing by Keiron Henderson