The EU's Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger welcomed the signature today (13 February) of an agreement between the governments of Italy, Albania and Greece to build the Trans-Adriatic pipeline TAP, as a possible component of the Southern gas corridor linking the EU to the resource-rich Caspian region.

The governments of Greece, Italy and Albania signed today in Athens a tri-lateral agreement, which they said solidifies commitments by the three countries to construct and operate the TAP pipeline.

Through its planned 122-cm diameter, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline will take gas from the Turkish border and deliver it 800 kilometers further, at the “heel” of the Italian peninsula, via Greece and Albania [see map]

The agreement is aimed at ensuring that the three countries cooperate in the timely delivery and efficient operation of the pipeline. Michael Hoffmann, TAP’s External Affairs Director, said that the signature concluded the last remaining high level international political agreement, which he said is important for the upcoming selection process by the Shah Deniz Consortium.

Two planned pipelines, TAP and Nabucco West, are competing for the gas from the offshore Shah Deniz II gas field in Azerbaijan. Nabucco West - a 1,326-km pipeline with a 122-cm diameter - is planned to take the gas from the Turkish border across Bulgaria , Romania and Hungary to the gas hub of Baumbarten near Vienna. [see map]

Oettinger welcomed the signature of the TAP intergovernmental agreement, but stopped short of demonstrating any preference between the two projects.

"[The TAP] pipeline is instrumental to connect the gas markets of Italy and Greece and to bring gas to Albania and potentially to other of our Energy Community neighbours. It could be among the first components of the Southern Gas Corridor which aims at linking directly the European Union with the rich gas sources in the Caspian Region,” the Commissioner stated.

The Southern corridor refers to various pipeline projects aimed at bringing gas to the EU from sources other than Russia.

>> Read: Europe's southern gas corridor: The great pipeline race

But experts say there is not enough gas coming upstream from the Shah Deniz II field to fill both pipelines. They say having two pipelines will only make sense once gas becomes available from other sources such as Iraq or Iran.

The state-run gas company of Azerbaijan, SOCAR, is expected to make a decision in June about which consortium to deliver its gas to. The decision is likely to eliminate the other candidate, or at least make its project irrelevant in the medium term.