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Trans-Caspian Pipeline:Dream or reality?

18 December 2014 [10:23] - TODAY.AZ


By Gulgiz Dadashova

European Union is encouraging the realization of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, hoping that it’s realization will further alleviate Eastern European dependency on Russian gas.

The EU has once again expressed support for the project saying Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have exclusive right to lay the TCP.

“The EU has repeatedly expressed support to the positions of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan regarding the exclusive right to lay a pipeline in the Caspian Sea between the two littoral countries in line with international agreements and conventions,” the EU Baku Office told Trendon December 16.

Turkmenistan with its enormous natural gas reserves and Azerbaijan with its strong energy projects are the key players of the TCP project envisaging laying of around 300 kilometers long gas pipeline under the Caspian to the shores of Azerbaijan. Further fuel can be transported to Turkey which has common borders with European countries.

Given the recent developments in ties with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, continuous unstable situation in Iraq and nuclear issue of Iran, only Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are viewed as the reliable gas supply sources needed to serve Europe's needs.

Turkmenistan has the world's fourth largest natural gas reserves after Russia, Iran, and Qatar, and produces about 70-80 billion cubic meters of gas each year. Azerbaijan's proven natural gas reserves were roughly 35 trillion cubic feet as of January 2014, according to the Energy Information Agency. The vast majority of these reserves are located in the Shah Deniz field. Discoveries of the Absheron and Umid formations added a further 15 Tcf of resources to the country.

The EU's support to the project remains unchanged and this position has been expressed earlier at the highest level by EU Energy Commissioner Maroš Šef?ovi? during his Baku visit this November.

Europe views the TCP as a good chance to diversify energy supplies and its implementation would bring more stability that is why Europe has begun to facilitate diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the project since September 2011.

The talks gained momentum this year with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso’s statement that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan were “strongly committed to the project.”

“We are still in the planning phase and we hope that the laying of the Southern Gas Corridor will contribute to accelerating the discussions for the TCP as well,” Barroso said in June 2014.

Caspian Sea disputes would still remain as the main obstacle in the way of the project – Iran calls on division of the Caspian's resources equally. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan’s preference is to divide the Caspian Sea along existing national borders, and Russia opposes any undersea project backing its interest in delaying progress to avoid Gazprom’s defeat in Europe.

Ashgabat says the consent of the countries whose territories are involved into the project is enough to build the pipeline.

“The energy transportation issue has been used as a political tool by certain. This is unacceptable,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said in his recent statement on the country’s energy strategy.

Berdimuhamedov emphasized that one of the key aspects of Turkmenistan’s energy strategy is diversification of export routes to the world markets.

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

Energy Minister Natig Aliyev earlier said that the Trans Caspian Pipeline is an issue between the two countries and the question of the consent of all Caspian countries for the project has not been brought up yet.

Europe repeatedly expressed hope that not only gas from Turkmenistan, but Kazakhstan and even Uzbekistan might be piped through the Southern Gas Corridor, once all the regional projects are linked together. But now Turkmenistan is only potential partner.

Turkmenistan has been moving slowly in the direction of involving itself with TANAP, part of the SGC, through Turkey. The two countries struck a framework agreement in November.

The realization of TAP and TANAP, as the key parts of the Southern Gas Corridor has created new hope in the region. Now the TCP does not seem as far from reality as in the past, as the projects being realized are interconnected with the prospect of Turkmen gas export to Europe.


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