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Nabucco Against the Minnows

Thursday 25 August 2011

Nabucco, the strategic project for transportation of Caspian gas to Europe, seems threatened by the non-strategic pipeline projects, ITGI (Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy) and TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline).

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Location of South Caucasus Pipeline

These are less advanced, compared with Nabucco, but are also less ambitious in scope, and consequently easier to source with gas. At stake is the 10 billion m³ (bcm) annual gas volume, planned for export to Europe from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field Phase Two, from 2017 onward. The winning pipeline project will kill the other two rivals in this zero-sum contest over finite gas volumes. Azerbaijan may be able to supplement that volume with a few additional billion cubic meters per year within the same timeframe. In any case, Baku holds the strongest cards for choosing the winner among the three rival gas pipelines to Europe.

Shah Deniz gas field is the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan. It is situated in the South Caspian Sea, off the coast of Azerbaijan, approximately 70 km southeast of Baku, at a depth of 600 m. The field covers approximately 860 km². The Shah Deniz gas and condensate field was discovered in 1999. It is to bring gas into Europe without having to traverse countries like Russia or Iran, deemed to be politically unreliable by some in order to promote their projected Nabucco pipeline.

Each of the three pipeline projects (Nabucco, ITGI, and TAP) lay individual claim to “opening the Southern Corridor” for gas to Europe. At this time, however, formal allegiance to the corridor concept disguises an intense competition that will leave only one project standing. The corridor can only become reality when Turkmen gas volumes will aggregate with Azerbaijani gas volumes for strategic impact in continental Europe.

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