EBRD Set To Approve TAP Loan In Boost For Developers -Sources
LONDON/MILAN, July 4 (Reuters) - A major European development bank is likely to approve a loan for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) gas project on Wednesday, raising hopes among its developers that Italy's new government will not stand in its way, sources said.
Italy's environment minister said last month the project was under review, raising fears among TAP's developers that Rome would demand major changes to the pipeline's route, which is set to land at a seaside resort in southern Italy.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)'s board of directors, of which Italy is a member, is meeting in Ukraine to approve a direct loan of up to 500 million euros ($583 million) for TAP, the sources familiar with the matter said.
TAP, the final leg of a $40 billion project called the Southern Gas Corridor to transport gas from central Asia to western Europe, is a cornerstone of the European Union's energy security policy to wean the bloc off Russian gas supplies.
It would be the first non-Russian gas pipeline to supply Europe since Algeria's Medgaz link nearly a decade ago.
An EBRD official told Reuters in February that a direct loan of up to 500 million euros and a syndicated loan of up to 700 million would be allocated to the 4.5 billion euro TAP project this year, subject to internal approvals.
The syndicated loan is likely to be provided to TAP later this month, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, but the exact amount has not yet been agreed with other lenders.
TAP will transport up to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from the Azeri Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Italy by 2020.
Over the past year, ongoing local opposition in Italy has caused delays and raised concerns the project could miss deadlines and even be rerouted.
Italy's new government, a ruling coalition of anti-establishment parties, has said the pipeline is an environmental danger and unnecessary given Italy's excess gas capacity.
However, sources familiar with the matter said that despite the comments made recently, Italy was unlikely to object to the loan at the board meeting.
It was not possible to get an immediate comment from Rome.
The far-right League, a member of Italy's ruling coalition, is in favour of the pipeline.
A spokeswoman for TAP said the company "continues to engage positively with the Italian government". If the EBRD's loan decision is delayed, she added, TAP's shareholders will continue to finance the project.
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