* TAP hopes for interministerial accord, possibly next month
* Project proposes one of two possible routes for Azeri gas
* Scheme still lacks Italian corporate partner
By Barbara Lewis and Karolina Tagaris
BRUSSELS/ATHENS, Aug 8 The Greek and Italian
governments have agreed to back the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
(TAP), which could improve the project's chances of winning a
long contest to become the means of reducing Europe's reliance
on Russia by bringing in Azeri gas.
Greek Deputy Energy Minister Makis Papageorgiou and his
Italian counterpart reached a "close cooperation agreement" to
jointly support the pipeline that would run through their
countries, the Greek ministry said in a statement.
Greece and Italy were in talks with the government of
Albania, which is also part of the route, over the pipeline.
TAP is one of two potential pipelines short-listed by the
Azeri Shah Deniz 2 gas consortium, led by BP and Statoil
, to carry 16 billion cubic metres of natural gas per
year to Turkey and the European Union.
"Athens and Rome have decided to back the project after
Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz 2 consortium chose TAP to transport gas
to western Europe. Nabucco West remains an alternative route
through the Balkans," a spokesman for the Italian Foreign
TAP would transport the gas from the western Turkish border
across the Mediterranean and into Italy, while rival Nabucco
West would pump the gas through southeastern Europe into
TAP was previously criticised for its lack of government
support, something Nabucco West already has from all countries
it would cross. Analysts say TAP also still lacks an Italian
Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR said in June it aimed to
decide the winner by the end of this year.
TAP welcomed the agreement.
"This confirms the progress we have been making in
discussions with the Italian and Greek authorities," TAP
External Affairs Director Michael Hoffmann said on Wednesday,
adding he hoped to sign an agreement wi t h the relevant
governments in September.
EU WANTS TO DIVERSIFY GAS SUPPLIES
The European Commission has said it does not favour any
project or route over another as long as it carries Azeri gas,
which would diversify supplies and reduce EU dependence on
Russia now provides around a quarter of the bloc's overall
gas needs, and Azeri fields are the most developed new
non-Russian sources of natural gas in Central Asia.
TAP, whose partners are Statoil, Swiss EGL
and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas, was not
immediately available to comment.
BP operates the Shah Deniz 2 gas field, which i s estimated
to hold 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas.
BP holds a 25.5 percent stake, as does Statoil. The
rest is divided between SOCAR, Russia's LUKOIL, Total
SA, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and
Iranian state-owned NICO.
Nabucco's six shareholders are Austria's OMV AG,
Germany's RWE AG, Hungary's MOL through its
gas pipeline operator FGSZ, Turkey's Botas, BEH of Bulgaria and