PRAGUE, March 5 Germany's RWE (RWEG.DE) plans to build an 80 million euro gas pipeline to connect its Czech network with Austria, the arrival point for new strategic gas links to Europe, its Czech unit said.
"The project is currently in a planning phase and we are in talks with OMV (OMVV.VI) that would be our partner in this project," RWE Transgas Net spokeswoman Jitka Kadava said.
"It depends on Nabucco and we are also mapping traders' interest. We would like to know what to do with this project this year," she said.
The 60-km LBL pipeline will link the Czechs to Austria's Baumgarten, one of the major hubs in Central and Eastern Europe where the planned Nabucco and South Stream pipeline projects should end.
The European Union backs Nabucco, which would bring Caspian and possibly Central Asian gas to western Europe, to curb its reliance on Russia, from where it takes a quarter of its gas supplies.
RWE Transgas Net Director Thomas Kleefuss told daily Hospodarske Noviny on Thursday that he hoped gas will flow through the line in three years.
The gas supply issue rose to the top of the EU's agenda at the start of this year after a price row between Russia and Ukraine halted supplies to the west during a freezing winter, forcing factories to close and leaving thousands of households shivering.
The proposed $20 billion South Stream pipeline is another potential supply route to Europe that would bypass Ukraine but not reduce reliance on Russia as it is designed to take the Russian gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria.
The EU could push forward the $10 billion Nabucco project at its May 7 energy security summit in Prague, it said last month. Nabucco aims to transport 31 billion cubic metres per year of gas after it opens in 2013 with Azerbaijan seen as a primary source. (Reporting by Martin Dokoupil, editing by William Hardy)