The Balkans – cross­roads of gas pipe­lines

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Sil­viya Stoykova, Valentin Sta­mov

Nat­u­ral gas pipe­line devel­op­ment is in­dis­pens­able for Europe as a whole and for SEE in par­tic­u­lar. Such projects are de­signed to di­ver­sify the gas sup­ply and de­liv­ery routes for Europe on the one hand, and re­duce the de­pen­dence of the re­gion on Rus­sian gas, on the other. Rus­sia is the dom­i­nant gas sup­plier for the en­tire con­ti­nent, its gas rep­re­sent­ing 25% of gas im­ports in the EU alone. Apart from th­ese ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tions, SEE could also ben­e­fit from de­vel­op­ing al­ter­na­tive gas pipe­lines, which will re­sult in an up­grade of the re­gion's old and in­ef­fec­tive en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture.

In light of the ever-in­suf­fi­cient gas re­serves in many coun­tries, not only Euro­pean states but also gas ma­jors such as Iran and Rus­sia might be forced to im­port Caspian gas. The Azer­bai­jani Shah Deniz gas field, lo­cated in the south Caspian Sea, could solve Europe's gas short­age prob­lems. It is op­er­ated by the same-name con­sor­tium be­tween UK oil and gas gi­ant Bri­tish Pe­tro­leum (BP), and the State Oil Com­pany of Azer­bai­jan, SOCAR.

The con­sor­tium is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing the Shah Deniz Stage II project that is ex­pected to yield about 25 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres (bcm) of gas per year. The project could help open the South­ern Gas Cor­ri­dor, an ini­tia­tive of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The goal of the South­ern Gas Cor­ri­dor is to pro­vide gas sup­plies from the Caspian re­gion and the Mid­dle East to Europe and it con­sists of mul­ti­ple en­ergy projects, such as Nabucco West, Trans Adri­atic Pipe­line (TAP) and South Stream.

Two ma­jor pipe­line projects were pitch­ing to se­cure gas sup­plies from the Caspian field – Nabucco West and TAP. They have of­fered to carry 10 bcm of gas an­nu­ally to var­i­ous cen­tral and south­ern Euro­pean mar­kets. The Shah Deniz con­sor­tium made a de­ci­sion at the end of June 2013, pre­fer­ring TAP over its ri­val Nabucco. How­ever, this does not mean that the Nabucco West pipe­line project is over. Both projects will be needed in the near fu­ture and Nabucco’s route is still to be dis­cussed, ac­cord­ing to Euro­pean En­ergy Com­mis­sioner Guen­ther Oet­tinger. The forth­com­ing open­ing of the South­ern Gas Cor­ri­dor is more im­por­tant than the choice of a par­tic­u­lar pipe­line. Once the in­ter­nal en­ergy mar­ket is func­tional and ef­fi­cient, the gas that has reached the Euro­pean Union will be eas­ily trans­ported across the con­ti­nent.

Gas pipe­line projects in the SEE re­gion

TAP – Greek–Turk­ish bor­der to Western Europe

The ap­prox­i­mately 870-km TAP will trans­fer nat­u­ral gas from Azer­bai­jan, via Greece and Al­ba­nia, across the Adri­atic Sea to south­ern Italy and fi­nally to Western Europe. It will con­nect with the Trans Ana­to­lian Pipe­line (TANAP)

The Shah Deniz con­sor­tium made a de­ci­sion at the end of June 2013, pre­fer­ring TAP over its ri­val Nabucco. How­ever, this does not mean that the Nabucco West pipe­line project is over. Both projects will be needed in the near fu­ture and Nabucco’s route is still to be dis­cussed, ac­cord­ing to Euro­pean En­ergy Com­mis­sioner Guen­ther Oet­tinger.

close to the Greek-Turk­ish bor­der, at Kipoi. TAP's ini­tial trans­porta­tion ca­pac­ity will be 10 bcm, but it might sub­se­quently be raised to 20 bcm per year. The gas is pro­jected to be­gin flow­ing in 2019.

Source: Trans Adri­atic Pipe­line (TAP) AG

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