After Nabucco, TAP too proposes shares to Azerbaijan

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The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP ) group has agreed offer up to 50% of its shares to the Shah Deniz gas consortium – made up of Azerbaijan's state gas company SOCAR and leading European energy partners. The deal follows the rival Nabucco pipeline's recent decision to give the Caspian Sea gas consortium the chance to acquire half of its shares.

TAP and its shareholders – Axpo, Statoil and E.ON – said in a statement that they have concluded a shareholder agreement with three members of the Shah Deniz consortium.

BP and Norway's Statoil each hold a 25.5% stake in the Shah Deniz consortium. Other shareholders include SOCAR and France's Total.

The shareholder agreement will take effect once the partners decide to exercise their options to join the TAP Joint Venture, taking a combined stake of up to 50% in TAP AG.

A similar deal two weeks ago appeared to give an advantage to the rival Nabucco pipeline.

Both Nabucco and TAP compete to obtain the gas resource from the Azerbaijan's offshore Shah Deniz II, estimated at 16 billion cubic meters a year (bcm/y). The authorities of Azerbaijan are expected to make their decision in June.

After a more ambitions project was recently downsized, the new Nabucco West project aims to ship 16 bcm/y of gas from the Turkish border to Austria, leaving the transit through Turkey to the joint Azeri-Turkish TANAP pipeline.

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. It is designed to expand transportation capacity from 10 to 20 bcm/y.

Kjetil Tungland, managing director of TAP, said he was pleased that members of the Shah Deniz Consortium, TAP and its shareholders were able to agree on the principles of a future joint venture.

“Having SOCAR, BP and Total entering the TAP Joint Venture would considerably strengthen the shareholder constellation of our pipeline project and I look forward to this becoming a reality in the future. The Shareholder Agreement is yet another important milestone demonstrating TAP’s relative advanced position compared to alternative pipeline routes”, Tugland stated.

TAP’s shareholders are Axpo of Switzerland (42.5%), Norway’s Statoil (42.5%) and E.ON Ruhrgas of Germany (15%).

According to the company's website, TAP also envisages physical reverse flow of up to 80% and the option to develop natural gas storage facilities in Albania to further ensure security of supply during any operational interruption of gas deliveries.

In the meantime, media in Azerbaijan quoted Nabucco chief executive Reinhard Mitschek saying that he expected that Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH would eventually form a joint venture of nine to 10 shareholders.

Mitschek stressed that once the equity option will be executed by the four partners – SOCAR, BP, Statoil and Total – in the Azerbaijani Shah Deniz gas condensate field's development, they will join the project.

He also mentioned that Germany's RWE proposed to exit the project, and this will be soon announced by the respective NIC shareholders and also by the RWE.

Several pipeline projects are competing with one another to bring to life the southern gas corridor – a vague blueprint to supply Europe with gas from the Caspian and the Middle East.

Initially the EU’s flagship project was Nabucco, designed to supply Europe with energy from the Caucasus and give the Middle East a gas hub in Austria, via Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

The construction of Nabucco was expected to start in 2013, with the first gas expected to flow in 2017. As planned, the pipeline would carry 31 billions of cubic metres per year (bcm/y) of gas.

But now only three smaller pipeline projects appear to be in competition to bring the gas from the Turkish-EU border deeper into the European Union:

  • Nabucco West: via Bulgaria and Romania to Austria
  • South East Europe Pipeline (SEEP): via Bulgaria and Romania to Hungary
  • Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP): via Greece to Italy

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