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At the very end of 2020, Azerbaijan started shipping commercial natural gas from the Shah Deniz field to European countries through the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP), media outlets reported, quoting SOCAR (http://socar.az/socar/az/news-and-media/news-archives/news-archives/id/11515).
Azerbaijani gas reached Europe through pipelines for the first time ever. Having been integrated into the Italian network back in November, TAP, the last segment of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), delivered the first gas from Melendugno to Italy via SNAM Rete Gas (SRG) and from Nea Mesimvria to Greece and Bulgaria via DESFA on December 31.
The direct pipeline connection to Europe, the world’s largest importer of natural gas, created the opportunity for Azerbaijan to diversify its energy exports. This will benefit the country, helping it move towards greater economic autonomy.
SOCAR President, Rovnag Abdullayev, praised December 31 as a historic day, expressing his appreciation and thanks to the partner countries, companies, experts and colleagues who had been involved in the TAP, Shah Deniz-2, and Southern Gas Corridor projects and contributed to the unprecedented delivery of Azerbaijani gas to the European market. “I would like to thank financial institutions for propping up the project and the residents of the communities where the pipelines pass”, he said.
In addition, Mr. Abdullayev congratulated both the people of the European Union and the people of Azerbaijan “on behalf of SOCAR, a shareholder in all Southern Gas Corridor segments, and Azerbaijani oil workers who have accomplished this historic mission”. “I warmly congratulate Azerbaijan on behalf of President Ilham Aliyev, the architect and driving force of the great project”, he said.
As the SOCAR president stated, “The final investment decision was taken seven years ago. It was followed by the signing of 25-year gas agreements with Europe’s gas transport companies Although some felt doubtful of success, we have finalized the construction of three 3,500-kilometer interconnected gas pipelines, enabling Europe to receive Azerbaijani gas for the first time in history”.
“Natural gas extracted from the new source and transported via the alternative route will bolster Europe’s energy security”, he added by highlighting the fact that “the EU gas production has declined, which creates a need for more gas in the market. In this context, Azerbaijani gas will satisfy this demand, thus making the country more strategically important to the Old Continent”.
Speaking about the newly commissioned pipeline, Luca Schieppati, TAP’s Managing Director, touted the day as historic for “our project, the host countries and Europe’s energy landscape”. He stressed the fundamental role of TAP in the continent’s gas network, adding that “it contributes to the energy transition roadmap and offers a reliable, direct, and cost-effective transportation route to Southeast Europe and beyond”.
In the summer of 2021, Azerbaijan will enter the second stage in market research to further expand TAP and increase its capacity to 20 billion cubic meters.
TAP is a 878-km cross-border pipeline which allows natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan’s sector of the Caspian Sea to flow into Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and finally Italy. The route runs from the Greek-Turkish border (near Kipoi) to the southern coast of Italy after crossing Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea.
Installing extra interconnectors may translate into more gas shipments to Southeast Europe via the newly commissioned pipeline. Take, for example, Bulgaria which is supposed to bolster energy security by importing 33% of its natural gas needs from Azerbaijan. Thanks to TAP, the country will see higher natural gas penetration on the ground. In addition, the fact that the SCG segment stretches through Greece, Albania and Italy can help Azerbaijan to transport gas to other European countries.
TAP, the strategically vital leg of the SCG mega-project, seeks to provide Europe with reliable access to the new natural gas source, diversify its supplies and achieve greater decarbonization.
TAP’s shareholding is divided among SOCAR, BP and SNAM, with a 20% stake each, Fluxys with a 19% holding, Enagas with 16% and Axpo with 5%.