Russian energy giant Gazprom may build a gas pipeline from Russia to China before it implements the South Stream project, planned for gas transportation across the Black Sea, a business daily said on Tuesday.
The Altai pipeline is expected to be launched between 2015 and 2018, while the launch of South Stream is not planned until 2015-2024, Vedomosti said, citing the latest draft of a gas sector development plan through 2030.
The Russian Energy Ministry, which penned the draft, will submit it to the government by the end of August, Vedomosti quoted a ministry official as saying.
Gazprom refused to comment.
But with China already investing heavily in the two biggest energy suppliers in Central Asia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the Altai pipeline will be a white elephant, experts say - costly, fraught with environmental risks and ultimately useless.
Russia agreed to build a gas pipeline to China as far back as 2002, but has haggled with Beijing over the gas price ever since. And the odds are that this will go on for quite some time, experts say. Russia wants to sell at European prices, something China is not going to consent to, as it is already getting cheap Central Asian gas.
Gazprom's South Stream pipeline will run under the Black Sea through Turkish waters to Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria.