The contract was awarded by a consortium of international energy companies that joined together in 2001 to form a company to study and promote the proposed pipeline. The group is led by state energy company Sonatrach and Cepsa of Spain, each of which have a 20 per cent stake in the project. The remaining shareholders, each holding a 12 per cent stake, are Total of France and its compatriot Gaz de France, the UK’s BP and two Spanish companies – Endesa and Iberdrola, which acquired its stake in the company from Italy’s Eni in September.

The award of the EPIC package will be made in the third quarter of 2004. The pipeline, which will pass through a maximum water depth of 2,160 metres, is intended to transport 16 billion cubic metres a year (bcm/y) of gas directly to Europe. Algeria delivers 6.25 bcm/y to Spain through the Europe-Maghreb pipeline, which passes through Morocco, and 20.56 bcm/y to Italy via the Transmed pipeline, which passes through Tunisia. In addition to Medgaz, Sonatrach is working on plans to build another gas pipeline – the Galsi link, which would run directly to Italy (MEED 27:6:03).