Vitaliy Baylarbayov, the deputy vice president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), announced that a supply contract has been struck with Italy for Azerbaijani gas to be shipped to Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor.
“A 25-year supply contract has been signed with Italy, and the first Azeri gas is expected to start flowing before the end of 2020,” Baylarbayov said in an interview with Euractiv. “The only remaining part of the corridor is TAP, the readiness of which is 91 percent,” he said, referring to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, one of three segments making up the $40 billion corridor.
The Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) and the South Caucasus Pipeline, both onshore segments, are already complete. All three segments make it possible for the 16 wells drilled in the Shah Deniz gas field, which lies underneath the Caspian Sea, to supply roughly 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to Europe each year and another six bcm to Turkey.
The South Caucasus Pipeline begins in Azerbaijan, passes through Georgia, and ends at Turkey’s eastern border, before TANAP – the largest segment to the corridor – begins and extends latitudinally towards Turkey’s border with Greece. TANAP turns into TAP, which traverses Greece and Albania, before dipping beneath the Adriatic Sea and connecting to Europe’s power grid in southern Italy.
Turkey began receiving gas supplies in July 2018, having purchased a total of two bcm by the end of that year. In 2019, overall supply to Turkey was the anticipated six bcm, which is expected once more by the end of this year. Roughly two bcm from Europe’s 10 bcm are earmarked to go to Greece and Bulgaria, via the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector.
The construction of the corridor has not been without dispute. Environmental activists in southern Italy have protested its construction, especially at the point of entry into Italy, near San Foca. However TAP is being constructed thanks to viable solutions such as a micro-tunnel that allows the pipeline to avoid the beaches in San Foca.
Meanwhile, SOCAR officials have insisted that the Azerbaijani project is not in competition with Russia’s two-string TurkStream pipeline, which also delivers gas to Turkey and Europe. The first line of that route stretches from Russia, extends underneath the Black Sea, to Turkey, and was inaugurated in January. It is expected to transport 15.75 bcm of natural gas to Turkey. The second string is destined for southern and southeastern Europe.
“Our volumes contracted to Greece, Bulgaria and Italy for 25 years, will start arriving in Italy as soon as TAP is ready. This cannot be changed. Whether there will be Russian, Libyan, Algerian or any other gas, it doesn’t matter, because we secured our own place,” Baylarbayov told Euractiv, referring to the Southern Gas Corridor.