Summary: The integration of existing oil transport infrastructure from the Caspian region via the Black Sea and on to the Western markets should provide the best opportunities to ensure the development of the hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian and Central Asian regions. So concluded an Inogate Seminar on "Investment Opportunities in the Oil and Gas Sectors of the New Independent States (NIS) and in Central European Countries (CECs)", held in Brussels on December 8/9. The conclusion was grounded in the context of current instability and unpredictability of oil markets. The mood was lifted, however, by the European Commission's announcement at the end of the conference that its financial assistance would be extended to the private sector. Meanwhile, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium has received its first major order for a pipeline crossing Kazakhstan and Russia.

Huge investment is required to develop the hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian and Central Asian regions and to rehabilitate, modernise and integrate existing transport infrastructure linking them up to Europe. They will require considerable private sector financing and probably also contributions by multilateral international financing agencies. This is why this meeting has, for the first time, provided for a direct dialogue between NIS countries and the international oil and gas industry to discuss current and future investment projects in an open forum. Investment opportunities. The seminar, which was organised by the European Commission, was attended by representatives of all the countries participating in the Inogate programme, EU officials and more than 150 oil and gas industry delegates. All Inogate participating countries summarised their investment policies in the oil and gas sectors and presented the oil and gas transit and export projects currently under consideration. Commission officials were at pains to stress that the EU's dependence on energy imports would increase dramatically over the next two decades. Dominique Ristori, Director for Energy Policy at the Commission, indicated that under current estimates, total energy import dependence would reach 60% in 2020, (60 to 70% for gas, 90% for oil and 80% for coal). The EU response to this situation has been and will continue to be to improve security of supply. This is particularly true for natural gas, which is expected, for environmental reasons, to...

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