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Geniet van Istanbul met Marc Guillet

First pipeline to provide EU with non-Russian gas

15 dec
2007
Door: Marc Guillet
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In: European Energy Review, January-February 2008

Turkey has added a second major energy project to its long term strategy of becoming an important energy hub for the European Union. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Greek counterpart Kostas Karamanlis met on a bridge across the river that divides their countries and inaugurated a new pipeline linking their natural gas networks and allowing Caspian gas to reach Europe. Mr Erdogan said: ‘Turkey has taken an important step in becoming the fourth main energy artery to west Europe with this project. The Silk Road will also become an energy route linking East and West through Turkey.’

The landmark pipeline is the first to bypass energy giant Russia and is welcomed both in EU capitals and in Washington as a first step to ease Gazprom’s hold on Europe’s energy supplies. Europe imports 25 percent of its natural gas needs and a third of its crude oil from Moscow.

The Turkish-Greek pipeline, also known as the Southern European Gas Ring Project, is part of the first phase of the European policy of diversifying its energy supplies. US Energy Secretary Sam Bodman was also attending the opening ceremony, underlining the importance the US places on the project. ‘It’s a great day for this part of the world,’ Bodman said. ‘This extraordinary project is the first link between Azerbaijan and the Caspian gas suppliers of Central Asia to European consumers. It provides a diversification for consumers and suppliers who will all benefit from the resulting competition.’

The 300-kilometer pipeline, which costs $440 million, runs from the Turkish town of Karacabey close to the northwestern coast under the Sea of Marmara to the Greek town of Komotini. Initially it will carry 250 million cubic meters of gas annually, pumped into Turkey from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan via the 1,050-kilometer-long Erzurum-Bursa line.

The project will be extended west to Italy with an 800-kilometer overland and underwater link – officially known as the Interconnector Greece-Italy (IGI) – that is set for completion in 2012. The annual capacity is expected to triple then to 11.6 billion cubic meters. About 70 percent of the natural gas supply through the pipeline will be for the Italian market.

The Turk-Greek gas link is the second project in Turkey to open an alternative energy corridor to Europe. The first major project was the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline which carries Caspian crude to Europe and other markets and is now one year operational. The 1,768 kilometer-long pipeline is the second longest in the world. It was built with the strong backing of the United States and is a major success. More than 205 million barrels of crude oil from Azerbaijan have been exported to the world markets bypassing Russia. The pipeline’s owners plan to upgrade the pipeline in 2008 to increase the capacity from the current 1 million barrels per day to 1.2 million bpd.

Another major project to diversify Europe’s energy supplies that will run through Turkey is Nabucco. This pipeline, strongly backed by Brussels, is expected to open the enormous gas reserves of Central Asia to energy hungry Europe. The ambitious project is still in the planning stage.

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