Demand for Slovakia's Eastring gas pipeline could hit 12 bcm in first year -study

BRATISLAVA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Slovakia’s proposed Eastring gas pipeline, aimed at reducing southeastern Europe’s reliance on Russian supplies, could be operational by 2025 and draw initial demand of 12 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year, according to a feasibility study.

The $2.6 billion, two-way pipeline would link Europe’s main gas transmission corridor from Russia via Ukraine and Slovakia with the border of Southeastern Europe -- the Black Sea or Turkey.

If the project wins final approval, construction could start in 2022 with the pipeline becoming operational at the beginning of 2025, Rastislav Nukovic, general director of pipeline operator Eustream, said on Thursday after the company disclosed the study’s findings.

“The positive outcomes of the feasibility study represent an important milestone in common project development and move us closer toward investment decisions,” Nukovic told reporters.

The pipeline would ensure southern countries, almost exclusively dependent on Russian gas, would receive gas even if Russian supplies via Ukraine were disrupted. It would also allow for new sources of natural gas in Turkey and the Balkans to be transferred further into Europe.

Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian gas companies would also be involved in the project, which would be eligible for EU funding.

The feasibility study outlines a new route snaking 1,208 kilometres (751 miles) between Velke Zlievce at the Slovak-Hungarian border and Malkoclar at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, Eustream said.

The pipeline would have an estimated initial capacity of about 15 billion to 20 billion cubic metres per year with a potential upgrade up to 40 bcm in the next phase, Eustream said.

As a project that will benefit more than one European Union country, Eastring is entitled to accelerated planning decisions and EU funding. ($1 = 0.8498 euros) (Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Michael Kahn and Susan Fenton)