ITGI fights to stay in the race for Azeri gas

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Without the participation of the Turkey-Greece-Italy Interconnector (ITGI), no other competitor can complete the offshore section to Italy, says the chief executive of Greece's publicly owned gas company DEPA. The project is intended to transport gas from Azerbaijan to Europe in 2018.

ITGI is more than a supply project, in contrast to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that is reportedly favoured by Azerbaijan for the offshore section to Italy, Harry Sachinis, chairman and chief executive of the Public Gas Corporation of Greece (DEPA), told EURACTIV in an interview.

Sachinis says ITGI includes two interconnectors that are important for the security of supply in Europe: the IGB (Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria), also known as Stara Zagora – Komotini, and the IGI linking Greece and Italy.

Bulgaria relies solely on Russian gas supplies and a major disruption in 2009 and recent cold snaps that drained supplies demonstrate the country's vulnerability to gas interruptions. The IGB interconnector, which would be ready in 2014, will be able to carry Caspian Sea gas before Azerbaijan's newest gas field – the Shah Deniz II – becomes available. The pipeline could also carry liquefied natural gas from the Revithoussa terminal in Greece.

The IGI terminal would allow for reverse flows, which Sachinis says is even more important because of potential supply disruptions during periods of unusual demand. During this winter's extreme cold, the DEPA executive said, Turkey proved "unreliable" when it stopped providing gas supplies to Greece.

Sachinis also insisted that unlike ITGI, TAP did not have all the necessary licences and approvals for it to be ready in time for officials in Azerbaijan to make their final decision on which project will transport gas from Shah Deniz II. He spoke of "risk of delay" for TAP, and hinted of the possibility that the two projects could combine strengths, without providing details.

Sachinis insisted that the decision of the Azerbaijan state gas monopoly SOCAR to give preference to TAP was "provisional", largely due to the fact that TAP investor Statoil is also an important shareholder in the Shah Deniz II offshore field.

He said the four competitors for Shah Deniz II gas – which also include Nabucco and BP – were in the middle of "a real game, a real negotiation".

"I think that this big negotiation that is moving to the most interesting time," he said.

Asked about the planned privatisation of DEPA, which according to media reports also induced the authorities in Baku to choose TAP, he insisted that the company was doing well and some 20 "very good companies" were interested in bidding.

Asked if Russia's Gazprom could seek to buy DPA, he said that the Russian state monopoly was free to bid.

"But I think the people who will bid the most interested in DEPA and who put the most money in, are people who actually see the opportunity to bring new gas into the market," he said.

Click here to read the full text of the interview.

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