Rivalry for European gas market gaining new speed

By Gulgiz Dadashova

European energy security is gaining a new guarantee as Turkmenistan is planning to join new gas supply race with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Turkmen gas will be able to reach the European markets soon and the three countries have already agreed to make it a reality.

Top diplomats of Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan sat at the table on January 29 in Ashgabat to discuss the gas supply of Turkmenistan, the holder of world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves, to Europe.

The Ashgabat meeting of the three foreign ministers also saw an agreement to enhance cooperation on energy and transportation projects. "The parties agreed that it is necessary to hold a meeting between the transportation ministers and relevant agencies of the countries," the joint statement added.

The EU aspirations to avoid the dependence on dominating Russian gas supplies and Turkey's increasing rush to benefit its quite beneficial geo-position brought Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in the topic of hot discussions.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan has already approved itself as a reliable partner in energy deals to the West, and as the country’s leader Ilham Aliyev said in one of his recent interviews Azerbaijan could be “a reliable source of gas for European customers for at least 100 years”.

The rapidly developing gas movements also actualized the rivalry between the Trans-Anatolia Pipeline project, which is in the process of realization, and a new-initiative Turkish Stream.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed “bad expectations”, saying TANAP is an indispensable project for Turkey that will be completed within three years.

"Both Turkey and Azerbaijan want Turkmenistan to be included in TANAP," Cavusoglu further added, underlining the need for diversification of energy resources and energy security, Anadolu Agency reports.

For now, the idea of bringing the Turkmen gas to Europe could be realized only through TANAP, a Turkey-Azerbaijan project aimed to bring the Shah-Deniz gas to Europe via joining the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.

The initial volume of Azerbaijani gas that will be flowing through TANAP will be 16 billion cubic meters annually in 2018. The capacity will increase to 23 billion cubic meters by 2023 and it is projected to hit 31 billion cubic meters by 2026.

The Turkmen gas will fill the necessary gap.

Europe has been eager to access the Turkmen gas for a long time. The West has been pushing hard to break the dominance of Russian natural gas and have been trying to sanction Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

Turkmenistan along with Kazakhstan considers delivering its huge natural gas reserves to the West via the Trans-Caspian pipeline project, a proposed project which would run under the Caspian Sea to reach Azerbaijan, then Georgia, and finally join TANAP.

The Trans-Caspian pipeline project is not a new idea, but the Caspian countries have yet to reach a resolution on the issue at a time when Russia is opposing any undersea project.

Still, the governments of Baku and Ashgabat state that the route for a pipeline project under the Caspian could be agreed by Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan without consent of the other littoral states.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly expressed readiness to establish transit facilities and infrastructure to realize the project.

What is clear today is that the Turkmen gas flowing through TANAP will be a favor for Turkey, which also advocates the Russia-backed Turkish Stream. Turkey surely seeks to take the advantage of its strategic location, as the countries located on the east side of Turkey possess 65 percent of the world’s entire energy resources while the West consumes 65 percent of the world’s total consumption.

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