EU energy chief touts 'Southern Corridor' from Caspian region

The European Union’s Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, on a tour of energy-rich nations in the Caspian region, underlined the importance of Turkmenistan as a supplier of energy to the EU.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 15 -- The European Union’s Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, on a tour of energy-rich nations in the Caspian region, underlined the importance of Turkmenistan as a supplier of energy to the EU.

“Major European companies are interested in establishing full and mutually beneficial partnership with Turkmenistan,” Oettinger said in Ashgabat, while Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said his country is prepared to consider “any proposal” to expand his country’s export routes.

The EU aims to reduce Russia’s potential control over its energy security through Southern Corridor projects, which—in addition to the Nabucco gas pipeline—includes White Stream from Georgia and the Interconnector among Greece, Turkey, and Italy.

While European partners in the Southern Corridor project are attempting to secure commitments from suppliers such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, the supplier nations are also interested in the projects as a means of bypassing Russia to diversify their export markets.

Oettinger’s remarks in Turkmenistan echoed earlier ones in Azerbaijan, where he met with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and representatives from the State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR).

In Azerbaijan, Oettinger stressed the importance of creating the transport corridor between the Caspian region and the EU, saying, “Progress on the Southern Corridor will be high on the agenda.”

As part of his mission to the region, Oettinger said the EU also would attempt to improve relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

That’s hardly surprising as good relations between the two countries are vital to EU energy plans: the passage of Turkmen gas to Europe will depend on the Trans-Caspian pipeline which is to link Turkmenistan with Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, visiting the Turkmenistan Gas Congress, as well as holding meetings with Berdymukhammedov, Oettinger said the EU had agreed to set up working groups with the Central Asian state “to develop the legal foundations for the Nabucco agreement.”

The planned 3,300-km Nabucco line, which would carry gas to Europe from the Middle East as well as the Caspian, is being developed by a consortium comprised of OMV, MOL and RWE, along with Botas, Transgaz, and Bulgarian Energy Holding.

Last month, the Nabucco consortium outlined its plans concerning the line.

“We are aiming to start with the construction at the end of 2011 and we'll expect first gas to flow at the end of 2014,” said Reinhard Mitschek, Nabucco managing director, who added that the pipeline’s launch would see volumes of 8-10 billion cu m/year, rising to full design capacity of 31 bcm/year by 2018.

“For a large pipeline system like Nabucco it is necessary to raise the capacities stepwise. We'll start with 8-10 bcm/year and we need the timeframe from 2014 to 2018 for the construction of additional compressor stations which are the precondition for the plateau level,” Mitschek said.

Earlier this week, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Romania signed a memorandum of understanding to transport Azeri LNG to the European Union through a project that could come online sooner than the Nabucco gas line (OGJ Online, Apr. 14, 2010).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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