* Second pipeline could take another five-to-10 years
* Decision on winning project expected by mid-2013
BRUSSELS Feb 13 Both of the projects vying to
pipe Azeri gas to the European Union can be built but not yet, a
senior official from one of them said on Wednesday.
The governments of Albania, Greece and Italy on Wednesday
signed an agreement, confirming their support for the Trans
Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), one of two projects in competition to
reduce EU dependence on Russian energy.
"There will be 10 billion cubic metres of gas available from
Shah Deniz phase II. In that context, there can't be two
large-scale pipelines built at the same time," TAP External
Affairs Director Michael Hoffmann told Reuters.
"But we can have two pipelines in a sequential situation. It
will only be a matter of time before more gas comes on stream
from Azerbaijan, though this may possibly take another five to
TAP is proposing a route through Albania and Greece into
Italy, while the rival Nabucco West project would ship gas along
a different path from Turkey's western border into a hub in
Austria from whence it could be distributed.
Heavily indebted nation Greece is particularly in need of
the kind of investment an energy pipeline would bring and Greek
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attended Wednesday's signing
ceremony in Athens.
The European Commission is project-neutral, saying its only
concern is that a route, which it refers to as the Southern Gas
Corridor, will be opened up to make EU supplies more secure and
diversified by providing a link to the Caspian region.
European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger in a statement
welcomed the signing of Wednesday's intergovernmental agreement
as "an essential step".
TAP's shareholders are Swiss energy company Axpo
(42.5 percent), Norway's Statoil (42.5
percent) and E.ON Ruhrgas of Germany (15 percent).
Its rival Nabucco West includes Austria's OMV,
Hungary's MOL, Turkey's Botas and Romania's Transgaz
The Shah Deniz consortium, which comprises BP,
Statoil, Azeri energy company SOCAR and Total, has a
50-percent equity option in both rival projects. It is expected
to choose one of the two pipeline contenders by mid-2013.
Greece, Italy and Albania had signed a preliminary agreement
to back TAP in September last year.