Geopolitical tension is no immediate risk to Azeri gas flows - TAP executive

MILAN (Reuters) - The growing tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan does not pose any immediate risk to the flow of Azeri gas into Western Europe, the head of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) said on Tuesday.

TAP is the final leg of a $40 billion project named the Southern Gas Corridor, which will transport gas from the Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Italy.

“Fortunately the Corridor is a long way from the most critical area,” TAP managing director Luca Schieppati said during an energy conference in Milan.

He said he believed the building of the pipeline was something that could unite countries.

Dozens have been reported killed and hundreds wounded since clashes between Azerbaijan and its ethnic Armenian mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh broke out on Sunday in a new eruption of a decades-old conflict.

Schieppati confirmed that after some four and a half years of work TAP was due to start on schedule in the coming months.

“By the end of the year the gas will flow and we can finally open the southern corridor,” he said.

The 878km TAP pipeline, which will have an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic metres of gas, is a cornerstone of the European Union’s energy security policy to wean the bloc off Russian gas.

Environmental campaigners and industry alike have voiced concern giant gas pipelines could be under-used as countries strive to use more carbon-free energy. Schieppati said he was not worried about demand.

“I am confident the gas will be fully used,” Schieppati said.

TAP AG shareholders are BP BP.L, Azerbaijan’s SOCAR, Snam SRG.MI, Fluxys FLUX.BR, Enagás ENAG.MC and Axpo.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Giulia Segreti and Barbara Lewis