Germany's largest power producer, RWE, would like to buy up to 5 billion cubic metres per year of Azeri gas via the planned Nabucco pipeline, German Economy Minister Michael Glos said today.
The long-delayed, €4.6 billion ($6.6 billion) project, which will pass via Turkey and the Balkans to Austria, is a key plank in European Union plans to ease dependence on Russian gas and diversify with Caspian or Middle Eastern supplies.
"As part of the Nabucco project we would like to purchase up to 5 Bcm of gas from Azerbaijan through RWE," Glos, on a visit to Azerbaijan, told Reuters.
"This, however, does not mean that Germany is discontented with the partners it has been co-operating with, Russia, but it would be more expedient to appeal to additional sources of hydrocarbons," he said.
The project's five signatory companies - Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL, Romania's Transgaz, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz and Turkey's Botas - have been in talks for months with RWE and France's Gaz de France on becoming the sixth partner.
Johannes van Aartsen, the European Commission Nabucco co-ordinator, earlier this week visited Sofia to discuss the participation of both RWE and Gaz de France as partners instead of just one of them.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Egypt and even Iraq have been mentioned as possible suppliers to the 31Bcm, 3300 kilometre pipeline.
The pipeline project is expected to come on stream in 2011, but so far the signatory countries - Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria - have not secured any gas and without supplies it would be difficult to raise funding, analysts said.
Azerbaijan's Energy Minister Natik Aliyev said today the Nabucco project was "realistic, serious", but that it was still at a relatively early stage.
"Until the political will of the Caspian gas producing states is voiced, until the economic side is drafted, until contracts are signed between consumers, transit countries and owners of the resources, this project will be on hold," Aliyev said.