Greece starts work on Azeri gas pipeline

Pipes and bends destined for the TAP pipeline in Albania. [TAP/Twitter]

Greece on Tuesday (17 May) launched construction on a 550-kilometre section of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras eager for the 8,000 jobs it will bring to the country’s crisis-hit economy.

Planned to operate from 2019, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will bring gas from the vast Azerbaijani Shah Deniz 2 field via western Turkey to Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic to Italy.

TAP is 870 kilometres long, running from Komotini in northeastern Greece to Puglia, Italy. It will cover 215 kilometres across Albania, 105 kilometres under the Adriatic and a final eight kilometres in Italy.

Tsipras said the pipeline would usher Greece and Europe into a “new era.”

“TAP is one of the greatest direct foreign investment projects carried out in Greece,” Tsipras said at the ceremony held in Thessaloniki.

For crisis-hit Greece, it means an investment of over €1.5 billion euros and 8,000 jobs, the premier said.

“The Greek economy really needs these jobs,” he added.

Energy security

The 53,000 pipes used to build it weigh the equivalent of 72 Eiffel Towers, according to officials. It will have an annual capacity of 10 million cubic metres, meeting the needs of some seven million households.

“Once complete, TAP will be a major asset in the European energy security tool box,” said European Union Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič who was also present at the ceremony.

“By opening up access to gas from Azerbaijan, TAP will allow many countries, including in Central and South East Europe to diversify their sources of gas,” he said.

TAP is designed to link up with the 1,850 kilometre Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) — to be completed in 2018 — and the existing South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), which links Turkey to the Azerbaijani gas fields in the Caspian Sea through Georgia.

Together, the three pipelines will form what has been called the Southern Gas Corridor.

“Southern Gas Corridor will be vital for reaching the Energy Union objectives of diversification of sources, routes and energy security.

“Therefore timely completion is crucial so that gas from the new suppliers can flow to Europe by 2020,” Šefčovič said.

The total investment in Shah Deniz 2, including the cost of the pipeline infrastructure, is $40-45 billion. The field will have 16 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas production per

But the project has not been universally welcomed. In January 2016, a group of 27 NGOs sent an open letter to the President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) urging the Bank not to finance the Southern Gas Corridor.

Xavier Sol of NGO Counter Balance said, “The arguments of local authorities in Italy show the incompatibility of the project with the EU’s own human rights and environmental policies.

“At this stage, the European Commission and the EIB seem to turn a blind eye on the concerns of affected communities. We are calling on those institutions to reconsider their support to this project which is both unnecessary and imposed.”

The Energy Union plan is the EU's strategy to bolster its resilience to shortages and fight climate change. One of its goals is to increase energy security by increasing the number of suppliers.

The EU imports more than half its energy. Its dependence on Russian gas was brutally exposed by the Ukraine crisis.

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