In three years time Majorca will be receiving natural gas from Valencia via an underwater pipeline which is to be installed via Ibiza at a cost of 45'000 million pesetas. Balearic Chief Minister Francesc Antich made the announcement yesterday, calling on central government for financial help in guaranteeing that the highly ambitious project is completed by March, 2004. Antich said that the project is a significant step forward to not only ensuring energy supplies to consumers, but also improving the quality of life. The gas viaduct is one of the fundamental projects of the Balearic Energy Plan and cabinet ministers will give the project its final stamp of approval in three weeks time. Antich, accompanied by his new Minister for Innovation and Energy, Príam Villalonga, said that natural gas is the cleanest and most ecological modern energy system. The plan will involve the sinking of a single pipeline of 40 centimetres in diameter from the gas plant in Valencia to Ibiza from where a number of pipes will branch out to various sub-stations in Majorca. Minorca and the isle of Formentera will also receive natural gas, but the supplies of liquid gas will be shipped. With regards to the level of safety of the project, the government said that the odds on a leak in the pipeline is one in a thousand over a period of 50 years. The director general for Energy, Joan Perchés, added that the entry points near Ibiza town and Coll d´En Rabassa in Palm, pose the most minimal threat to the public. Antich estimates that the budget for the project will be approved by September and that construction work will commence in January, 2003 with the first natural gas supplies from Valencia reaching consumers by March, 2004. Antich said that talks with the Valencian government are progressing well, and that Palma is waiting for a final confirmation of the exact spot where the pipeline will leave the mainland for Ibiza, but the cost has still to be negotiated with central government in Madrid.