EU eyes more Azeri gas amid high bills and tight Russian supplies

Pump jacks are silhouetted against the rising sun at an oilfield in Baku, January 24, 2013. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

BAKU, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The European Union is seeking more natural gas from Azerbaijan, an EU official said on Friday, as Europe grapples with high energy bills and tight deliveries from Russia, its main supplier of fuel, which has been at loggerheads with the West over Ukraine.

However, Azerbaijan's ability to produce and export more fuel is limited.

European Union Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson has travelled to energy-rich Azerbaijan amid Europe's efforts to secure gas from various sources other than Russia and draw up contingency plans in case of disruptions to gas supply.

Escalating tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian gas flows to Europe, prompting the European Commission and the United States to investigate alternatives. read more

Simson told a news briefing in the Azeri capital of Baku, that the EU is hoping for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to boost gas exports to Europe from Azerbaijan.

She said the EU was hoping for TAP to increase its exporting capacity to 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year from around 8 bcm now.

TAP transported more than 8.1 billion cubic metres of gas from Azerbaijan into Europe last year, of which 6.8 bcm total had been carried into Italy.

It is the final leg of a $40 billion project named the Southern Gas Corridor.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said on Friday the country exported 19 bcm of gas last year, including 8.5 bcm to Turkey. The rest was shipped to Italy, Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria.

Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Edmund Blair and Louise Heavens

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