LONDON May 17 The European Commission has approved the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project's final legal requirement needed to allow it to export natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, TAP said in a statement on Friday.
The TAP project, which aims to bring 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Azeri natural gas from the Shah Deniz 2 consortium to Europe via Italy, competes with the Nabucco West pipeline project which would bring the gas to Austria.
The so-called Third Party Access exemption means TAP can offer capacity for export of gas volumes from Azerbaijan to Europe for a period of 25 years, TAP said.
"Its signature means that we now have all of the agreements we require ahead of the Shah Deniz Consortium's decision next month," said TAP's Managing Director Kjetil Tungland.
The Shah Deniz 2 consortium, led by BP, Statoil , Azerbaijan's SOCAR and Total, plans to begin exporting gas from early 2019 and has said it would announce the winning pipeline project by the end of June.
TAP's shareholders are Swiss energy company Axpo, Statoil and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas.
Its rival Nabucco West includes Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL, Turkey's Botas and Romania's Transgaz . Germany's RWE sold its stake to OMV last year. (Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by James Jukwey)