Commission welcomes arrival of ‘Caspian gas’ to EU countries

A valve at the Kipoi compressor station, linking TAP to TANAP. [TAP website]

This article is part of our special report Pipeline gas diversification becomes reality.

The European Commission welcomed on Friday (4 December) the start of the operations of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the last stretch of the Southern gas corridor, thanks to which gas pumped from the Shah Deniz offshore gas field in Azerbaijan started reaching Italy.

As a key component of the 3,500 km Southern gas corridor, the TAP pipeline became operational on 15 November, according to a communique by this company, although the achievement went largely unnoticed.

Asked to comment, Commission spokesperson Tim McPhie said the EU executive “welcomes the start of operation of the TAP, which connects Greece to Italy trough Albania, bringing Caspian gas to consumers in the EU”.

“The project will increase choice and competition, improve energy security and diversify gas supply, particularly in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria, as well as the South-East European region. TAP is a project of EU common interest and an important part of the Southern gas corridor”, McPhie said.

The idea of the TAP project goes back more than 10 years, when it was in competition with other pipeline projects to carry gas from Azerbaijan, such as the now-defunct Nabucco. Russia had for years nourished ambitions to build a Poseidon pipeline in the Adriatic Sea, mirroring TAP, to bring Russian gas to Italy instead, but the project never materialised.

The actual construction of TAP started four and a half years ago, but it encountered difficulties in its final stages, with activists in Italy opposing the removal of 211 olive trees.

With the trees replanted and the local authorities appeased, the pipeline was completed on 12 October and gas started flowing on 15 November. The 878 km long pipeline connects with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Turkish-Greek border in Kipoi, crosses Greece and Albania, and the Adriatic Sea, before coming ashore in Southern Italy.

The pipeline has a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters a year (bcm/y) and is designed with the potential to double its throughput capacity to 20 bcm/y. Shah Deniz is expected to reach peak output in 2023, around the time that TAP would also hit full capacity.

TAP’s routing can facilitate gas supply to several South Eastern European countries. Bulgaria will link to TAP via the interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), which is in its final stages of construction, and import 1 bcm/y of Azeri gas, representing around one-third of its annual consumption. Until now Bulgaria was dependent on imports of Russian gas at almost 100%.

TAP’s shareholding is comprised of British Petroleum (20%), Azerbaijan’s SOCAR (20%), Italy’s Snam (20%), Belgium’s Fluxys (19%), Spain’s Enagás (16%) and Swiss-based Axpo (5%).

The Commission has for years promoted the policy of diversification of gas supply. According to experts, the most obvious result of this policy is precisely TAP, which for the first time brings pipeline gas from the East from a source different from Russia. Other sources of diversification are mainly in the form of LNG supply to various terminals in maritime EU countries.

The Commission has promised to present details of how its policy of decreasing the dependency on Russian gas translates in figures.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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