The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) has submitted "99% of the applications needed for its construction," according to a company source, apparently establishing the project as a frontrunner in the race for Azeri gas ahead a 1 October deadline for the submission of transportation offers to the consortium exploiting the Shah Deniz II gas field.
Almost all applications have now been submitted for TAP. An official communiqué says that the consortium has submitted its Third Party Access Exemption (TPA) applications in all three host countries – Albania, Greece and Italy.
Third Party Exemption will allow TAP AG to enter into long term ship-or-pay Gas Transportation Agreements (GTAs) with the suppliers of the Shah Deniz II gas field in Azerbaijan.
One of TAP's advantages in the race for Azeri gas appears to be the fact that Statoil, one of the company's shareholders, is a 25% owner in Shah Deniz.
Applications will now be scrutinised by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), especially with regard to environmental standards. In the meantime, work on the Environmental and Social Impact Assesments (ESIA) in Albania, Greece and Italy continues.
TAP spokesperson Lisa Givert told EurActiv that the company had so far engaged so far with over 2,000 stakeholders along the pipeline route to get their input and feedback. Many options have been assessed to improve the route and avoid sensitive protected area and cultural heritage sites, she said.
Turkey to play key role
In the meantime, a top official in the state energy company of Azebaijan announced that his country would be able to supply 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year to Europe when the Shah Deniz II offshore deposit comes on stream in 2017.
The estimated volume matches exactly with the projected capacity of TAP and ITGI, the Turkey-Greece-Italy Interconnector (see 'Background'), but not with EU's flagship Nabucco project, which has a planned capacity of 38 bcm.
However, both TAP and ITGI depend on the existing pipelines across the territory of Turkey.
"It is crucial for Turkey and Azerbaijan to sign an agreement on gas sales and transit tariffs before a decision on pipeline options," Jennifer Coolidge, executive director at research company CMX Caspian and Gulf Consultants Ltd., was quoted saying by Bloomberg.
Turkey, a country in rapid development, is also bidding for gas from Shah Deniz II.
The 'Southern Gas Corridor' is seen as part of a 'New Silk Road' of transport and energy links between Europe and the Caspian region.
The best-known pipeline project is Nabucco. But other smaller projects, such as the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the Turkey-Greece-Italy Interconnector (ITGI) or the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI), with a planned capacity of 10 billion cubic meters per year each, all have the potential to become important elements of the Southern Gas Corridor and even into question the future of Nabucco.
Budgeted at about €1.5 billion, the TAP project is designed to offer the shortest and cheapest way to ship Azeri gas from the Shah Deniz II field to Europe.
In comparison, the Nabucco project is estimated by its management at €7.9 billion and at €14 billion by BP.
The TAP pipeline, 520km in length, will begin its route in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, crossing Albania before running across the bottom of the Adriatic Sea for 115km to Brindisi in Italy. TAP's offshore section links Italy and Albania.