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The Russian government has approved a new route bypassing Lake Baikal
The Russian government has approved a new route bypassing Lake Baikal for an oil pipeline from East Siberia to the Pacific, a Cabinet spokesman said on Monday.

The East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline project is slated to pump up to 1.6 million barrels of crude per day from Siberia to Russia's Far East and then on to China and the Asia-Pacific region.

The initial route through Buryatia in East Siberia has been replaced with a more northern one going via Yakutia. The pipeline's destination originally planned for Perevoznaya Bay in the Russian Far East will now be Kozmino Bay near the port of Nakhodka, Russia's easternmost point. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov signed an instruction last Wednesday.

Nikolai Tokarev, president of project operator Transneft, read out a new declaration on the project in Vladivostok last Wednesday. He said the pipeline's first leg, estimated at $11 billion, would be finished in late 2009, though a government decision demands it be commissioned in 2008.

Tokarev said earlier that the pipeline could not be sped up as this would push up the costs considerably.

"The project has been accelerated to a maximum. It could be expedited further, if new credit facilities were raised. But this measure would push up the company's costs considerably compared with the planned $12 billion figure," Vedomosti quoted Tokarev as saying.

The ESPO first stage envisages the construction of a 2,757-kilometer (1,713-mile) section with a capacity of 30 million tons (220.5 million bbl) of oil per year. The project's first leg will link Taishet, in East Siberia's Irkutsk Region, to Skovorodino, in the Amur Region, in Russia's Far East.

The second leg will stretch for 2,100 kilometers (1,304 miles) from Skovorodino to the Pacific. It will pump 367.5 million barrels of oil annually. The second stage also envisages an increase in the Taishet-Skovorodino pipeline's capacity to 588 million barrels.


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