Eastern Siberia's oil will start to be pumped to China no earlier than 2009

The decision to build an oil pipeline from Eastern Siberia to China may be adopted by next August, while oil may start to be delivered through this pipe no earlier than in six years, according to a source in the Russian government.

The project must be updated to include environmentalists' comments and an economic feasibility study before a final decision on the pipe's route is adopted, said the source. These will take six to ten months.

Russia is not, thus far, producing oil in Eastern Siberia to deliver it to China or another country, noted the government official. The effort to prospect oil in the region will take a lot of money and six to eight years to be implemented, according to him.

The prospected oil reserves are not enough to launch an economically feasible project. "It is not the right thing to build a pipe and think it will hopefully get filled with something one day. We should take decisions proceeding from what we have in reality and set realistic timeframes," emphasized RIA Novosti's interviewee.

The government has, thus far, selected none of the two available projects. The "southern" route was worked out by YUKOS oil major in co-operation with Transneft, while the "northern" route by YUKOS alone. The "northern" route seems to be a better option in terms of the development of Eastern Siberia, above all Yakutia, as of today.

Environmentalists' criticism of both projects must not be disregarded, emphasized the official. Experts warn that in case of a break in the pipe oil will spill into Lake Baikal in five hours' time. This must not be allowed to happen, he emphasized. Baikal is the largest fresh water lake on the planet.

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