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Oriental tricks for EU: Turkish Stream integrating into Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan

Southern Gas Corridor. Image: neftegaz.ru

Even if only one pipeline of the Turkish Stream is built, the Russian gas will be supplied to Europe through the southern gas route. Ankara plans integration of the Russian project and the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) that is part of the Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan to Greece and Italy via Georgia and Turkey. The statement came from Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu. He said the first pipeline of the Turkish Stream will have an annual capacity of 16 billion cubic meters of gas, while the surplus supply that will not be consumed by Turkey will be exported via TANAP. The Turkish minister expressed hope that the pipelines will be connected by 2018 and the gas will be supplied to Europe.

Experts say integration of the two projects would be beneficial for Russia at the first stage. “Last year, 11 billion cubic meters of gas were supplied for Turkey via Ukraine. After the construction of the first pipeline of the Turkish Stream, 11 billion cubic meters will be supplied via the new pipeline, while the remaining 5 billion cubic meters will be exported to Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor,” says Igor Yushkov, a leading analyst at the National Energy Security Foundation. Actually, the EU will have nothing to object to, since it will meet the third package of EU’s energy legislation: gas of various operators will be supplied via the gas pipeline, and Gazprom as a producer company is not be the owner of the “pipeline.”

It is noteworthy that Brussels forced Russia to withdraw from the South Stream project due to the same reasons i.e. combination of the functions of operator and supplier.

The expert says a gas transportation system with a capacity of 32 billion cubic meters was laid via the territory of Russia to the Black Sea and it will not be expanded. “Therefore, it cannot be a full analogue of the South Stream,” the expert says. “In case the second pipeline of the Turkish Stream is build, it will supply another 16 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, and the export of gas via the Southern Gas Corridor will become impossible.”

First, the current capacities of the gas pipeline are not designed for such additional volumes. Second, the stance of the project’s shareholders, namely Socar, is not known. It is known that the pipeline construction of which was supported by the EU was to be expanded due to the additional gas supply from Turkmenistan and Iran, not from Russia. The project is an alternative, though with lower capacity- 10billion cubic meters, to the Russian gas supply to Europe.

“Besides, Gazprom’s idea of building a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine looks to take control of the entire process of gas transportation to the final consumer,” Igor Yushkov says. “A possible option of expanding the Southern Gas Corridor may imply a construction of a parallel pipeline involving the Russian company. However, the final word will rest upon the European Union in the given case.”

To recall, part of the Russian gas is supplied to Turkey via the Black Sea Blue Stream, the other part is transited via Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. After numerous Russian-Ukrainian gas conflicts, Gazprom decided to minimize its dependence on the transit via Ukraine. Afterwards, in 2011, Nord Stream was built across the Baltic Sea and the implementation of the South Stream project across the Black Sea was launched to supply gas to Southern Europe and Turkey. The EU did not approve the project and in late 2014 and the Turkish Stream project via Turkey, not Bulgaria, was announced. The planned capacity of the four pipelines of the Turkish Stream was to total 63 billion cubic meters of gas. One pipeline will supply gas to Turkey, the others – to Europe. At the end of last year, the talks on the Turkish Stream were frozen after Turkey’s air force shot downed a Russian warplane over Syria. Now, when Russia and Turkey started normalizing their relations, the Russian and Turkish presidents have approved the decision to resume the project. Russia’s Minister of Energy Alexander Novak said a task force will be set up.

“We have already given permission for the feasibility studies for the Turkish Stream Natural Gas Pipeline Project," Mevlut Cavushoglu said adding that they will adopt an environment impact assessment and the negotiations will be continued to launch the work on the project.

According to Alexander Novak, the sides weigh the construction of one pipeline for gas supply to Turkey via Ukraine by the second half of 2019. The second pipeline of the Turkish Stream for gas supply to Europe will be built in case of Europe’s guarantees, as Vladimir Putin said earlier.

“Our Turkish partners and we are interested in the implementation of this project, and European countries are interested in it too. Further, it is necessary to settle the technical issues and receive the necessary approvals and guarantees that this infrastructure will be in demand,” Alexander Novak said.

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