The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) cleared an important hurdle on December 2nd when the Greek Parliament ratified a host agreement to allow access through Greek territory. The move was important for the pipeline, keeping the project on track to begin construction in 2015.
TAP will carry natural gas from the resource-rich Caspian basin in Azerbaijan to Western Europe. First, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) will take the gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey. TAP will pick up from there, carrying the gas through Greece, Albania and under the Adriatic, then terminating in Italy. An estimated 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas will be piped from the Shah Deniz, one of the largest gas fields in the world. Of that total, the pipeline will deliver 6 bcm to Turkey, and the remaining 10 bcm to markets Europe.
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The construction of TAP will bring a conclusion to the political jockeying over the “Southern Corridor.” The European Union relies on Russia for 34% of its natural gas imports, and with Russia showing a fondness for cutting off gas supplies when it wants to prove a point, the EU for years has sought supply diversity. This led European policymakers to push for a pipeline from the Caspian, originally in the form of the Nabucco pipeline, which would have run through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and terminating in Austria.
Both Nabucco and TAP served the purpose of cutting out Russia’s plan of building a pipeline underneath the Black Sea. Although the economics were dubious, Russia pushed the “South Stream” project as a way to maintain its grip over European energy. Nabucco’s route overland through Eastern and Central Europe, however, proved to be too expensive as well. On June 28, 2013, the BP-led Shah Deniz consortium selected TAP as its choice to carry Caspian gas to the West.
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Connecting the Southern Corridor will also mark the realization of a major goal of the U.S. Government, which has long-supported the extraction of Azeri oil and gas as a means to improve European and American energy security. The State Department issued a “congratulations” to Azerbaijan and the Shah Deniz consortium after the selection of TAP. The U.S. government did not have a preference between Nabucco and TAP; it just wants to see some pipeline built that cuts out Russia.
The decision by the Greek government was more about economic development rather than energy security. With the economic crisis in Greece, TAP promises the added benefit of funneling billions of Euros from transit fees into the Greek economy. In support of TAP, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in March 2013, “This is the largest project undertaken in southern Europe … it will bring foreign investment of more than 1.5 billion euros to Greece.” TAP still needs approval from the government of Italy, to which it submitted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in September 2013.
Construction is slated for 2015, and the 4,000 kilometer pipeline will make its first deliveries to Turkey in 2018 and to the rest of Europe in 2019.
By. Nick Cunningham