Turkey opens natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan

ISTANBUL, June 12 (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan held a ceremony on Tuesday to mark the start of supplies of gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey through the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP).

“We have opened our natural gas pipeline and are now sending it (gas). May it go well,” Erdogan said, standing next to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and turning a valve on the pipeline.

The $7.99 billion pipeline, carrying gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field, is also a major step in the European Union’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by developing the so-called Southern Gas Corridor.

The gas will come from Azerbaijan via the South Caucasus pipeline extension through Georgia, then the 1,850 km TANAP through Turkey, and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to Greece, Albania and Italy. Erdogan said on Tuesday gas deliveries to Greece would begin in June 2019.

Output from Shah Deniz II is expected to reach an annual 16 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas by 2020, with 10 bcm earmarked for Europe and 6 bcm for Turkey. Erdogan said the pipeline’s capacity would be increased depending on demand.

“We aim to increase TANAP’s capacity first to 22 bcm depending on demand and then to 31 bcm with additional investments,” Erdogan said.

TANAP Project Director Polad Rustamov told Reuters last month that first commercial deliveries of gas to Turkey would begin on June 30.

Rustamov said that gas volumes would be supplied to Turkey gradually, starting with 2 bcm a year, rising to 6 bcm by June 2021. He also said capacity could be boosted to 31 bcm by 2026.

TANAP’s shareholders are Azeri state energy company SOCAR (51 percent), Turkish firm Botas (30 percent), BP (12 percent) and SOCAR Turkey (7 percent). TANAP could also attract additional volumes of gas from Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan and Russia. (Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen Editing by Dominic Evans and Jane Merriman)