ATHENS, February 7 (RIA Novosti) - An intergovernmental agreement on the construction of a $1 billion oil pipeline in the Balkans will be signed next month in Greece, the country's development minister said Wednesday.

"The agreement will be signed during early March in Athens," Dimitris Sioufas said.

Earlier in the day delegations from Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece signed a protocol confirming that the agreement to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline has been finalized, coordinated, and is ready for signing.

The 280-kilometer (175-mile) pipeline will pump Russian oil to Europe, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region via the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas and Greece's Alexandroupolis, on the Aegean, enhancing the countries' roles as key energy transit hubs.

"This is a national achievement which will allow Greece and Bulgaria to occupy a position on the world energy map," the minister said.

Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece signed a memorandum on the pipeline in April 2005, which will pump 35 million metric tons of oil a year (257.25 million bbl), a volume that could eventually be increased to 50 million metric tons (367.5 million bbl).

The project, designed to bypass the crowded Bosporus Strait in Turkey, received a further boost during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Greece in September 2006, when he met with the Greek prime minister and Bulgaria's president to discuss the pipeline.

The project has been on the table for more than 10 years, but progress has been slow, reportedly due to Russian producers' reluctance to contribute oil to the pipeline.
Russia's state-controlled oil producer Rosneft [RTS: ROSN], state pipeline operator Transneft, and energy giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] will hold a total of 51% in the project, while Greece and Bulgaria will control 24.5% each.

Another pipeline that is going to by-pass the US d0llar. Wow, 50 million tons is about 1 million barrels per day, maybe somebody needs to tell those dumb Rooskies that they're going to run out of oil any day now and won't have any left for themselves. 175 miles worth of pipe doesn't take very long to install, wouldn't shock me to see 500K barrels a day selling for something other than d0llars by this fall. This is going to be an interesting year.