There is less than one year to go before the Southern Gas Corridor, which will provide energy for roughly 10 million European households thanks to natural gas trapped beneath the Caspian Sea, goes fully online. Before that happens though, just a fraction of the pipes required to get the gas moving along its 3,500 kilometer (2,175) journey still need to be laid.
“In February 2013, Greece, Albania, and Italy signed a trilateral intergovernmental agreement, reinforcing their support for TAP,” reads a statement issued by TAP-AG and referring to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) segment of the corridor. “Today, 98 percent of the pipes have already been laid in the ground in Greece and Albania.”
Azerbaijan’s state-run energy company SOCAR, BP and Italy’s Snam each have a 20 percent stake in TAP. Belgium’s Fluxys holds 19 percent, Spain’s Enagás has 16 and Swiss Axpo another five percent.
The construction of TAP, costing about $4.5 billion, kicked off in 2016 and is expected to be completed by 2020. Ten billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas pumped from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field beneath the Caspian Sea will move westward to Europe, first running through the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) in Azerbaijan and Georgia, followed by the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) that runs the entire length of Turkey. TANAP ends at Turkey’s border with Greece, where TAP begins and crosses through Albania and dips under the Adriatic Sea, before plugging into southern Italy’s energy grid. An additional six bcm will move through SCP and TANAP, delivering it to the Turkish market.
European and American officials, who are wary about Europe’s heavy reliance on Russia for energy imports, are looking forward to the opening of the corridor. U.S. President Donald Trump has openly supported the project, and in 2017 sent a letter to Baku welcoming Azerbaijan’s efforts.
“The U.S. remains strongly committed to the Southern Gas Corridor [project], and welcomes the efforts of Azerbaijan and its international partners to complete it. I appreciate Azerbaijan’s important role in bolstering global energy security, including the development and exportation of energy resources from the Caspian region,” the letter read.