European gas security starts in Azerbaijan

By Gulgiz Dadashova

The Southern Gas Corridor gains approval of all parties.

The SGC solemnly launched in Baku this September keeps its position as a major component of the European Union energy policy as Europe strives to diversify its gas supplies away from Russia through finding new sources in the Caspian area.

Azerbaijani Energy Minister Natig Aliyev said on November 27 at the 25th session of the Energy Charter Conference in Astana the Southern Gas Corridor is the strategic project that plays an important role in the economic development of such a large region as South-East Europe.

“The success of the Southern Gas Corridor gives us opportunity to continue the political and economic cooperation in the energy security not only with the countries of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea regions, but also with the Mediterranean Sea states,” he said.

The Southern Gas Corridor increasingly leaves behind Russia-backed South Stream that was designed to reduce the risks of the Russian gas transit through Ukrainian territory. Periodic Russian-Ukrainian gas conflicts, last of which resolved only recently (and that decision proved to be temporary), demonstrated the unreliability of Ukraine as a transit country.

Vice-President of the European Commission on Energy Union Marosh Shefchovich said the creation of the Southern Gas Corridor is important for the EU in terms of gas supplies to the Mediterranean countries.

"The issue of diversification of gas sources is important for the EU,” he said. “We study all possibilities, and last week, representatives of the Mediterranean region studied the issue of interest in the establishment of a regional LNG terminal and suppliers of raw material in this region.”

Shefchovich said Europe is interested in creating a network of LNG terminals in order to ensure the free flow of gas across Europe. He said that LNG terminals in Europe are already operating in the Netherlands and Spain.

The Southern Gas Corridor will allow Europe to diversify its hydrocarbon supply sources and strengthen energy security and also will allow Azerbaijan to obtain new markets in Europe.

The Southern Gas Corridor will keep one of Europe’s vital energy routes viable for decades to come and away from vulnerabilities.

If Europe further continues to slow down the South Stream project, Russia can give it up, Russia’s Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said, reports.

Although energy hungry Europe needs Russia’s gas volumes it seems not to step back from imposing sanctions on Russia and search for new sources.

Following Moscow’s policy towards Kiev Europe once again realized the necessity of diversifying the sources together with new players of gas market, the most important one of which is Azerbaijan.

The Southern Gas Corridor, stretching over 3,500 kilometers, crossing seven countries and involving more than a dozen major energy companies, is expected to transport gas from the Shah Deniz, the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan and one of the biggest in the world.

It is comprised of several separate energy projects, namely Trans Adriatic and Trans Anatolian pipelines representing a total investment of approximately $50 billion.

Because deals with Iraq, Turkmenistan and Iran are not likely for Europe in the near future, the focus is currently on pumping Azerbaijani gas.

Shah Deniz gas will reach Europe in 2020 with the expansion of the South Caucasus Gas Pipeline up to 23.4 billion cubic meters per year, as well as the construction of the TANAP and Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipelines. TANAP will be commissioned in 2018, while the TAP pipeline in 2020.

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