Romania wants EU compensation for abandoned Nabucco project

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Romanian President Traian B?sescu has asked for compensation from the EU for the abandoned Nabucco pipeline project which had been planned to carry Azeri gas to Austria through Romanian territory.

“Romania considers itself entitled to be compensated for the abandonment of the Nabucco project," B?sescu said on Tuesday (27 August), according to the Romanian press.

"Bear in mind that Romania, supporting this European project, didn’t hesitate between South Stream and Nabucco, and simply said Nabucco,” he added.

Last June, the consortium managing the offshore Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan chose the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) over Nabucco to carry 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year (bcm/y) to Europe (see background).

Nabucco was supposed to take the gas from the Turkish border across Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to a gas hub near Vienna. TAP will take gas from the Turkish border across Greece and Albania, with an offshore section to southern Italy.

South Stream is a Gazprom project positioned as a rival to Nabucco. It is planned to bring Russian gas across the Black Sea to Bulgaria, continuing its route through Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, to reach northern Italy. Branches of South Stream are planned to bring gas also to Bosnia and Croatia. According to the latest map on the South Stream website, the pipeline would bypass Romania.

But the contention that Romania “didn’t hesitate” between South Stream and Nabucco is disputed. In 2010, Romania gave Gazprom all the documentation relevant for building the South Stream pipeline through Romanian territory. That move was seen as an attempt by Gazprom to put pressure on Bulgaria, which has always been Gazprom’s preferred entry point for the offshore pipeline.

The notion that countries had to “choose” between South Stream and Nabucco has also been contested. Bulgarian leaders have long bragged that their country would be key for both pipelines. The European Commission has always denied that it has put any pressure on any EU country for any particular pipeline, saying only that it considers the so-called Southern gas corridor to be a priority, because it would contribute to the diversification of supplies and to energy security. The “Southern gas corridor” is a diplomatic term referring to the various projects to bring gas to the EU from Azerbaijan.

B?sescu described South Stream as “a consolidation of the Gazprom hegemony”, adding that he wouldn’t mind if the project was realised.

The Romanian President said he had requested that Romanian ambassadors in EU capitals explain this Romanian position and push the EU to compensate Romania for being “the only country which didn’t hesitate between South Stream and Nabucco, unlike other neighbours”.

B?sescu noted that the EU’s “Connecting Europe Facility” was one potential source of compensation.

On the question of whether Nabucco still had a future, the Romanian President said that he did not see the project materialising in the next ten years.

Marlene Holzner, spokesperson to Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, told EURACTIV that the choice of TAP had been a commercial decision by the Shah Deniz consortium. However, she added that the Commission is committed to develop a second leg of the pipeline bringing gas from Azerbaijan, “at a later stage”.

Also, the Commission is committed to equip existing pipelines to be able to reverse flows, Holzner said.

In October, the EU executive will publish a list of big energy infrastructure projects, some of which, considered as commercially non-viable, may be co-financed with EU funds under the Connecting Europe Facility, Holzner said. Those projects would benefit from fast permit procedures, she added.

Azeri gas from the offshore Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian offers Europe a means of reducing its dependence on Russia which currently provides around a quarter of the continent's 500-billion cubic-metre-per-year (bcm/y) annual gas consumption.

Two pipeline projects were competing to obtain the 10 bcm/y from Shah Deniz, available for the EU market: Nabucco West and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The Shah Deniz consortium, led by BP,

The Shah Deniz consortium, consisting of Norway's Statoil, Azeri firm SOCAR and France's Total, had to choose between the two projects.

Nabucco West - a 1,326-km pipeline with a 122-cm diameter - was to take the gas from the Turkish border across Bulgaria to Romania and Hungary to the gas hub of Baumgarten near Vienna. [see map]

TAP, or Trans Adriatic Pipeline, with a length of 800 km and also with a 122-cm diameter, will take gas from the Turkish border across Greece and Albania, with an offshore section reaching Santa Foca, at the “heel” of the Italian peninsula. [see map]

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