From: Associated Press
Published April 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Japanese, Russian Leaders Meet to Discuss Siberian Oil Pipeline

TOKYO — Senior Japanese and Russian officials met Thursday to discuss a proposal to build a 4,100-kilometer (2,550-mile) crude oil pipeline from Siberia to Russia's Pacific Coast, from where oil could be shipped to energy-hungry consumers in Japan.

Russia has also agreed to plan a branch line that would carry crude to China's northeast.

The talks between trade minister Shoichi Nakagawa and Russian energy minister Viktor Khristenko were to be followed by a meeting of the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs on Friday.

The pipeline would have a capacity of 1.6 million barrels per day. Japan is expected to provide low-interest loans to pay for much of the construction of the pipeline, now estimated to cost more than US$10 billion (euro7.6 billion) and be in commercial use in 2010.

Over the past two years, the two nations have held a series of expert-level talks on the pipeline and discussed three major issues _ a feasibility study of its construction and environmental impact, financing, and oil exploration in eastern Siberian fields.

Russian state-owned pipeline operator OAO Transneft is to be responsible for construction of the pipeline, and the Russian government has instructed it to prepare a construction schedule by May.

The pipeline would follow a route from the town of Tayshet in Siberia's Irkutsk region through Skovorodino in the Amur region to the port of Perevoznaya in the Primorye region on the Pacific coast.

Environmental organizations have said a better site for the pipeline terminal would be Nakhodka, an active industrial port with existing oil terminals.

Many indigenous groups and environmentalists say the massive drilling projects would harm the fragile maritime environment and disrupt the traditional culture of native inhabitants. They also say that spillage from the pipeline might harm gray whales living off the Sakhalin islands, and oil barges might collide with surfacing whales.

Source: Associated Press

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