The shareholders in the South Stream gas pipeline, intended to carry natural gas to Europe, have agreed to build the northern leg to Austria before starting work the southern leg to Italy, Paolo Scaroni, head of Italy's Eni energy company, said on Friday.
"This question is in the competence of [Russian gas giant Gazprom] and the transit countries, but we have come to agreement that the leg to Italy's south will be made after construction of the first onshore leg to Austria is completed," Scaroni told reporters.
The South Stream pipeline is intended to transport up to 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas to central and southern Europe, diversifying Russian gas routes away from transit countries such as Ukraine.
Construction will start in December 2012. Russia plans to start using the pipeline in 2015.
The pipeline's core shareholders include Gazprom with 50 percent, Italy's Eni with 20 percent and Germany’s Wintershall Holding and France's EdF with 15 percent each.