RWE has become a partner in the Nabucco pipeline, one of the most important natural gas infrastructure projects in Europe.

RWE Gas Midstream has taken a 16.67 per cent stake in Nabucco Gas Pipeline International Ltd alongside five other international energy companies. The pipeline is expected to be operational in 2013 and will have a significant impact on security of supply for natural gas in Europe.

The Nabucco gas pipeline will connect Western Europe with natural gas deposits in the Middle East and Caspian region. Europe currently imports around 60 per cent of its gas needs, much of it from Russia, and diversification of supplies is a major element of the region’s energy policy.

The new pipeline will have an annual capacity of 31 billion cubic metres and will run for 3300 km from Turkey via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Baumgarten near Vienna, Austria. The front end engineering design study for the project is underway and its six strategic partners will share the EUR5-6 billion investment.

RWE says it will initially take around 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas from the pipeline in 2013. European law mandates that a certain amount of the pipeline’s capacity must be made available to companies other than the six partners, and this “open season” process has already begun.

RWE has 10 000 natural gas customers in South-Eastern, Central and North-Western Europe as well as 7000 MW of gas-fired power generation capacity, bringing the group’s total natural gas needs to 40 billion cubic metreyear.

RWE’s partners in the Nabucco project are OMV Gas International, MOL (Hungary), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania), and Botas (Turkey).

Europe’s annual consumption of natural gas is forecast to rise from 500 billion to almost 800 billion cubic metres in the next 20 years. The Nabucco project has been classified as one of the central infrastructure projects for strengthening Europe’s security of supply for natural gas, as it makes a considerable contribution in expanding supply routes.