Balkan states back TAP, IAP gas pipeline projects

TIRANA Thu May 23, 2013 2:19pm EDT

TIRANA May 23 (Reuters) - Four Balkan states backed the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project on Thursday, weeks before the Shah Deniz 2 consortium picks between TAP and its rival Nabucco West project.

The TAP project aims to bring 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Azeri natural gas from the Shah Deniz 2 consortium to Europe via Italy, through Albania.

Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina joined Albania in backing TAP because they want it to build the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline from TAP's possible landing point in Albania to supply them with gas since they rely on Russian imports.

Montenegro and Albania are not connected to a gas grid.

TAP competes with the Nabucco West, which would bring the gas to Austria and consists of Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL, Turkey's Botas and Romania's Transgaz. Germany's RWE sold its stake to OMV last year.

The shareholders of TAP are Swiss energy company Axpo, Norway's Statoil and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas.

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.