President Aliyev attends Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council meeting - UPDATE

By Aynur Karimova

The Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Second Ministerial Meeting started in Baku on February 29.

President Ilham Aliyev joined the meeting.

The energy ministers and representatives of various organizations from the Southern Gas Corridor member-states took part in the meeting as well.

Addressing the event Ian Bradshaw, the TAP Managing Director, said the groundbreaking ceremony for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline is expected to take place in late May-early June 2016 in Greek city of Thessaloniki.

“We have achieved great progress in Greece. With the help of the Government of Greece the pipes will be delivered by the end of April 2016, and the groundbreaking will start in the middle of the year,” he noted. “In terms of access, Greece has provided necessary conditions for the successful start of the project.”

The 878 km TAP pipeline will transport Azerbaijani natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz 2 field through the last leg of the Southern Gas Corridor, connecting with the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline at the Turkish-Greek border at Kipoi and then crossing Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea, before coming ashore in Southern Italy.

Bradshaw said the supply of pipes to Albania is also expected in late April-early May 2016.

In his remarks, Jan van Bilsen, the regional manager of the International Finance Corporation for the South Caucasus, said the Southern Gas Corridor is a landmark strategic project to open up gas supplies to new markets and contributing to energy security of the Southern-East Europe.

Bilsen noted that the IFC has not yet made an investment decision concerning the Southern Gas Corridor project.

“We welcome an opportunity to participate in this meeting and to understand the potential role which IFC could play in the project,” he added.

The Azerbaijan-initiated Southern Gas Corridor project envisages the transportation of the gas extracted at the giant Shah Deniz field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. Shah Deniz Stage 2 gas will make a 3,500 kilometer journey from the Caspian Sea into Europe. This requires upgrading the existing infrastructure and the development of a chain of new pipelines.

The first gas supplies through the corridor to Georgia and Turkey are given a target date of late 2018. Gas deliveries to Europe are expected just over a year after the first gas is produced offshore in Azerbaijan.

Massimo D’Eufemia, the European Investment Bank's official representative, in turn, said the Bank is working closely with European Commission, and it is attaching highest consideration to the timely realization of the Southern Gas Corridor.

"As all the participants have stated, this project is key infrastructure for the region and also for Europe," D’Eufemia said, adding that the Southern Gas Corridor will secure new energy sources to Europe, a well as announce new competition in the gas market.

Last year, the EIB closely worked with both TANAP and TAP and is focusing its efforts on these two projects.

"We also want to assure that there will be EIB's long-term funds and resources for successful completion of these projects, and we're also considering financing the other components of the Southern Gas Corridor," he added.

Speaking at the event, Afgan Isayev, the Chief Executive Director of the Southern Gas Corridor Company, said despite the global economic challenges faced by the commodity exporting countries, Azerbaijan's national economy is still resuming and continues to be resuming.

He said that economic diversification remains core policy objective and new reforms will spear the continuing development of the non oil sector.

“The government will continue to announce new reforms in this area,” Isayev said.

Neal McCain, head of Baku office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in turn, said the EBRD remains committed to supporting Azerbaijan in its efforts to diversify its economy.

Baku hosted the first Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council meeting on February 12 in 2015, during which the issues of further promotion of the project and the problems that may arise in its implementation were discussed.

Three plenary sessions and a round table will be held as part of the second meeting.

Maros Sefcovic, the Vice-President for Energy Union, Berat Albayrak, the Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Amos Hochstein, the U.S. Special Envoy for Energy Affairs of the State Department, Edmund Hosker, the Director General for International Energy Issues of the UK Energy and Climate Change Department, Claudio De Vincenti, the State Secretary of the Council of Ministers of Italy and others are among the event participants.

Maros Sefcovic and Natig Aliyev, Azerbaijan's Energy Minister will make statements for the press.