The Edison-favoured ITGI project (Interconnection Turkey-Greece-Italy) is more competitive in terms of cost and could constitute the "first phase" of the Nabucco project, Elio Ruggeri, head of gas infrastructure at Edison, told journalists in Brussels.
There has been an "over-focus" on Nabucco, claimed the company's representative.
Ruggeri lamented the lack of "a clear European signal" regarding the southern gas corridor. In this context, he unveiled his company's views about the future of pipeline supplies to Europe from sources other than Russia.
Presuming that gas demand in Europe remains low until 2015, the Edison representative predicts that Azerbaijan could serve as the only gas supplier from that area, via Turkey. However, gas supplies to Europe from Azerbaijan, who is rich in petrol but has relatively small gas reserves, would remain modest and could total two bcm/y, he said.
'Financial merit, political benefit'
Azerbaijani volumes are sufficient to underpin the development of a medium-sized EU pipeline such as ITGI, he said, highlighting the project's "financial merit" and "political benefit".
Other efforts would include:
- Upgrades of the Turkish grid and the interconnection Turkey-Greece (operational since 2007);
- Realisation of the interconnection Greece-Italy (IGI), consisting of a 600km pipeline through Greek territory and a 200km offshore pipeline under the Ionian Sea (the 'Poseidon' pipeline);
- Realisation of interconnection Greece-Bulgaria (IGB; also known as Stara Zagora-Komotini, partly financed by EU funds).
When operational, ITGI would stretch from Azerbaijan across Georgia (the existing Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipeline) and Turkey into Greece and from there into Italy, across the Ionian Sea. The branch from Komotini to Stara Zagora would make sure that Bulgaria has a reliable alternative source of gas from 2013. Russian gas could also be imported through the existing Blue Stream pipeline across the Black Sea, from Beregovaya (Russia) to Durusu (Turkey).
ITGI already benefits from a hundred-million-euro grant allocated to Poseidon and 45 million euro allocated to the interconnection Greece-Bulgaria. Compared to Nabucco, ITGI is "cheaper and a more mature" project, its representatives claimed If Nabucco were built without enough gas supplies and worked at half its capacity or less, the cost of such gas would be very high for the consumer, they said.
Only after 2020 would there be a need for "bulk infrastructure" such as Nabucco, if either Iraqi or Turkmen gas were to become available, he explained. Iraqi gas is not exploitable due to a conflict between Iraqi-Kurdish local authorities, where the reserves are situated, and the central government in Baghdad. As for Turkmenistan, under the most optimistic scenario the country is expected to export 10 bcm/y to the EU via Turkey, starting from 2020.
Ruggeri insisted that his company was not competing with Nabucco, which in his words was the "next phase of the southern corridor".
Asked by EurActiv if the same message had been conveyed to Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, he admitted that a meeting had taken place and the message had been passed on. A decision was needed before the end of the year on more European support for ITGI, he said.
Ruggeri admitted, however, that if Azerbaijan decides to sell its gas to Russia, the whole plan would fall apart.
"If Azeri gas is sold to Russia, we can say goodbye to the Southern corridor. Azeris are pivotal in this," the Edison representative said.