On May 17, in Thessaloniki, Greece, was held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). This project composed by the shareholders as Socar (20 %), BP (20 %), Snam (20 %), Fluxys (19 %), Enagas (16 %) and Axpo (5 %), is the third part of the Southern Gas Corridor, envisaging Azerbaijani gas supplies to Europe, along with the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) and Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP).
The 870-kilometer pipeline, with the initial capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year, expandable to 20 billion cubic meters, envisaging transportation of gas from the Stage 2 of development of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas and condensate field to the EU countries in 2020, will be connected to the TANAP on the Turkish-Greek border, run through Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea, before coming ashore in Italy’s south.
Attending the ceremony were such high-ranking officials as Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Greek Energy and Environment Minister Panos Skourletis, Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova, as well as the representatives of the project shareholder companies, including Rovnag Abdullayev, head of SOCAR.
Importance of this project was recognized by several high level officials.
John Kirby, spokesman of the US State Department stressed that “US remain committed to energy diversification on the European continent, which will increase Europe’s energy security and advance regional stability and prosperity. And we look forward to watching this important project proceed, which will strengthen, we believe, the economies of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Greece, and Italy specifically”.
Alexis Tsipras, Greek prime minister underlined that the pipeline also enhances regional cooperation, so besides economic, it is also of geo-strategic importance.
Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission for Energy Union indicated that the Southern Gas Corridor project demonstrates that the creation of integrated energy infrastructure linking Caspian resources to European consumers is technically possible, economically viable, and politically beneficial for all parties involved.
Berat Albayrak, Turkish energy minister, calling natural gas as the main source of energy for Europe for today and the future, stressed that construction of the TAP and the TANAP marks the beginning of creation of a new sustainable energy market in the region.
Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili said that the realization of the Southern Gas Corridor illustrates that energy became a cornerstone and opportunity for the countries involved to enhance economic growth and security.
At this ceremony, Azerbaijan was represented by a large delegation composed by First Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Yaqub Eyyubov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Energy Natig Aliyev and others, as President Ilham Aliyev was in Vienna at the meeting with Armenian President Serge Sargsyan, in order to find peaceful solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
It is useful to remind that as a result of this conflict, Armenia occupied almost one fifth of its territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts, carried out ethnic cleansing of seized areas by expelling about one million Azerbaijanis from their homes and committed serious war crimes. The international community has consistently deplored, in strongest terms, use of military force against Azerbaijan and the resulting occupation of its territories, as reflected in four UN Security Council resolutions, thus rejecting any actions violating sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and refusing to recognize as legitimate situation created through such actions. Despite this, Armenia continues to hold destructive position, prefers to aggravate situation and transfer negotiations process into deadlock. Azerbaijan’s commitment to peaceful solution is very well known.
As on April 2, 2016 Armenia once again flagrantly violated ceasefire regime and demonstrated its insidious policy against Azerbaijan, attacking Azerbaijani positions on line of contact and shelling residential settlements, OSCE Minsk Group, in charge of the peaceful solution of the conflict organized this meeting of Presidents.
Indeed, Azerbaijan is the most important actor of this project. President Ilham Aliyev’s energy policy is very clear: the energy and transportation corridors connecting the Caspian region with the Balkans and the Mediterranean are the key contributors to energy security of greater geography, as well as the carriers of political dialogue based on mutual benefit and reliability between many nations.
Today, the delivery of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe is transforming into an important factor significantly contributing to stability of the European gas market for the next decades. The proven gas reserves of Azerbaijan are estimated at above 2.5 trillion cubic meters (TCM), while its potential gas reserves stand at 5TCM.
The opening of the Southern Gas Corridor will be the first in decades to bring new sources of natural gas into Europe. With the Southern Gas Corridor, the Azerbaijani gas will reach some lucrative European markets at prices set by market principles of supply and demand, thus decreasing their supply vulnerability and high import prices.
Indeed, Shah Deniz Stage 2 offshore gas field in the Azerbaijani section of the Caspian Sea represents the major and primary resource base of the Southern Gas Corridor. Obviously, there is no other project at the moment that is better placed to serve as a driver for that corridor. That is why, TAP and TANAP are of strategic importance for Azerbaijan and partner countries.
At present, the European countries are building natural gas interconnectors among each other that increase the potential of the delivery of Azerbaijani gas to a wider European market through different networks. Azerbaijan is also interested in ensuring transparent, reliable and unimpeded transit for the Caspian gas deliveries to Europe on market-based and guaranteed tariffs. Therefore, the Southern Gas Corridor has the potential to meet up to 20 percent of Europe’s gas demand in the future.
So, these positive developments are encouraging for all stakeholders of the Southern Gas Corridor to intensify the coordination of joint efforts to meet the deadline for the first gas delivery from the Caspian Sea.
Mutual trust, confidence and support among governments as well as effective communication between the companies involved are major prerequisites of successful and timely realization of this project.
This position was one more time expressed by First Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Yagub Eyyubov during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Dr. Turab GURBANOV