Putin opens Russian section of Siberian-Pacific oil pipeline

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday opened the Russian section of a long-awaited oil pipeline that will carry Russian crude to China in a bid to diversify its oil exports away from Europe.

"The Russian part of the project is completed," Putin said at an opening ceremony in Skovorodino in the Far Eastern Amur region in comments published on his official web site.

The branch pipeline will ultimately transport crude oil from Siberia to refineries in the northeastern Chinese city of Daqing.

"For us this is an important project because we are beginning to diversify the supply of our energy resources," Putin said at the ceremony, attended by the head of China's National Energy Administration, Zhang Guobao.

"Up to now, the main supplies have been delivered to our European partners. And still today our European partners get around 120-130 million tonnes of Russian oil."

The pipeline will initially carry 30 million tonnes of oil a year to the energy-hungry Asia-Pacific region and will later build up to 50 million tonnes, Putin said.

"This is already noticeable competition with the European route," Putin said.

The Chinese side still needs to build 930 kilometres on its territory to link up the pipeline, he said, but added that Russia is "absolutely sure that Russian oil will run to China this year."

Last year, the Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft completed the construction of the first 2,694-kilometre (1,600-mile) section of the oil pipeline, which originates in Taishet in eastern Siberia.

Transneft in October 2008 signed an agreement with the Chinese oil group CNPC on the construction of a 67-kilometre branch line to China

© 2010 AFP

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