Monday, October 11, 2010

Europe’s southern gas corridor: The great pipeline race

October 2010

[Vladimir Putin is charting new ground in his Russian "Third Way," somewhere between Communism and capitalism. It will be interesting to see how many of the CIS states voluntarily rejoin the neo-Soviet Union. American "loss of face" with the locals worldwide....over the many failed psy-ops, is making a liberalized arrangement with the Russians look like a good choice....and many Blocs are forming throughout the world, to replace the falling American/British/Israeli Empire of Evils. The collapse of the American economy, along with the collapsing FAKE terror war, demonstrate to all potential client states in any imaginable "pipelineistan" scenario that the United States has destabilized itself, and cannot be counted on anymore in the short to medium term or in the long run....

As the American choices for correcting the unraveling plans begin to narrow, military minds will probably prevail, compounding their near-perfect records of unrelenting barbaric and cruel wars, assassinations and various cruel mistakes with the biggest, ugliest mistakes that they could possibly make, such as using selective nuke strikes or opening-up new fronts, possibly in Lebanon, Iran, Yemen+Saudi Arabia, South America or Africa....]

Several pipeline projects are competing with one another to bring to life the southern gas corridor – a vague blueprint to supply Europe with gas from the Caspian and the Middle East. EurActiv takes a look at the various European initiatives, including their common competitor: Russia’s South Stream project.

POLICY SUMMARY; The ‘Southern Gas Corridor’ is seen as part of the ‘New Silk Road’ of transport and energy links between Europe and the Caspian region. EU politicians gave the project its name, while energy companies and governments are attempting to breathe life into it by pushing for concrete projects.

The best-known pipeline project in the southern gas corridor is Nabucco. But other smaller projects, such as the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the Turkey-Greece-Italy Interconnector (ITGI) or the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI) all have the potential to be an important element of the southern gas corridor and even call into question the future of Nabucco.

Some, like Russia’s South Stream, even have the potential to becoming Nabucco ’killers’ by making the flagship EU project irrelevant.

South Stream, a planned pipeline carrying Russian gas to Europe, has a bigger capacity than Nabucco, similar target dates for completion and would largely reach the same Central European clients (see details in ‘Issues’). In theory, South Stream could also carry gas from the Caucasus, as Russia’s energy state monopoly Gazprom offers competitive prices to gas-producing countries such as Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan.

Alongside South Stream, a little-publicised project known as White Stream, a Ukrainian initiative, could also be seen as a competitor in the southern gas corridor, as it aims to bring gas from the Caucasus across Georgia and Ukraine to Romania with further supplies to Central Europe.

For Europe, building too many pipelines would make little sense. Although they would potentially introduce competition between different suppliers, the high construction costs would also likely inflate prices for consumers. On the business side, returns would be too small to justify several projects, meaning some will have to be abandoned.

Political dimensions

However some governments, and Russia in particular, are pushing for their projects irrespective of their cost-efficiency. Indeed, some of the pipeline projects could be seen as more ‘political’, while others appear to make more business sense.

Politics are an important factor when considering the routes for the different projects. AGRI, for example, would transport liquefied gas by ship across the Black Sea, bypassing both Turkey and Ukraine. Russia’s South Stream would also bypass Ukraine, via a large offshore section which avoids the country’s territorial waters. Nabucco, for its part, is highly dependent on its transit arrangements with Turkey, as about half of the planned pipeline stretches across the country.

Politics also play a role in the fact that some projects like Nabucco are recognised as being ‘of European interest’. However, other projects that do not enjoy the same status, like South Stream, have received backing from some EU member countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Greece. If both were to be launched, it is unclear what the positions of those countries and of the EU would be.

Overlapping routes

All the pipeline projects, including Nabucco and South Stream, incorporate sections of existing pipelines. When all the projects are put on the same map, a clear overlap between several different projects – which use the same existing sections – becomes visible. What becomes apparent too is that many of the planned new sections are very similar from one project to another. (read HERE)

NABUCCO, ITGI, TAP, there can be only one...

Nabucco, ITGI (Italy–Turkey-Greece Interconnector) andTAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) are projects of Europe’s Southern corridor competing for Azerbaijan’s gas because it’s the only gas available to be produced and exported in the short term. Complicating matters is that Azerbaijan could even sell the gas to another bidder like Russia or China.

The pipeline projects plan to run on the second phase of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz offshore field, envisaged to produce some 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually from 2015 of which eight to 10 bcm could be available for export to Europe. Azeri gas could fill TAP’s initial capacity of 10 bcm per year or most of ITGI, which plans a capacity up to 12 bcm. Nabucco at 31 bcm expects eight to 10 bcm of Azeri gas per year for the pipeline’s first stage, hoping it will open the way for Iraqi or Turkmen gas in the second stage of Nabucco. You do the math!

Realizing gas availability is limited, pipeline shareholders are talking to each other and everything is on the table. At a Baku conference last month, RWE of Germany, one of the Nabucco consortium partners, proposed a “project convergence” between Nabucco and ITGI to increase the benefits for both pipelines. Elaborating further, RWE Supply & Trading spokesman Michael Rosen told New Europe on 7 October, “We have raised the idea of convergence and are open for further discussions.” Asked if RWE has received any response regarding the feasibility of the merger, Rosen said “discussions are ongoing so we have to wait. But it is clear now, that the European Union as well as Turkey and the gas supply countries would be in favor of convergence. Nabucco is competitive to attract gas supplies. Any convergence would not affect Nabucco’s competitiveness, but it would provide ITGI/IGI a lot of strategic and economic benefits, in particular regards the transportation risk profile.” Earlier, Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the Nabucco pipeline consortium, told New Europe that everything that changes the concept needs to be agreed by all shareholders.

Meanwhile, a source at Italy’s Edison, one of ITGI’s shareholders, told New Europe on 6 October that as the Azeri gas will not be sufficient for all the projects on the table, it could make sense that, at some point, pipelines stakeholders may talk with each other. “Anyway, ITGI perfectly matches with Shah Deniz 2 gas volumes without needing any additional sources, as other competing pipelines would do, to make our project commercially viable. ITGI is the most advanced and cheapest solution to open the Southern Gas Corridor. We’re ready to start building the Greece-Italy section as soon as we get the Azeri gas secured, so even by next year,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the Promitheas conference on Energy and Climate Change on 7-8 October in Athens, Elmira Ramazanova, Deputy Chief of Azerbaijan’s National Oil Committee, told New Europe that Azerbaijan’s gas is now considered as the main source for EU-bound Nabucco, ITGI, TAP and White Stream projects.

Earlier, Konstantin Simonov, director of the independent NationalEnergy Security Fund, told New Europe from Moscow that all these projects bypassing Russia struggle for the Azeri gas. “When they are speaking about this alternative Azerbaijani gas, first of all they must find it and then think the politically-correct way of its transportation.”

Note that, Nabucco is the new gas bridge from Asia to Europe and the flagship project in the Southern Corridor. It will be a pipeline to connect the world’s richest gas regions - the Caspian region, Middle East and Egypt - to the European consumer markets.

The shareholders of the company are: OMV (Austria), MOL (Hungary), Transgaz, (Romania), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), BOTAŞ (Turkey) and RWE (Germany).

Each of the shareholders hold 16.67% of the shares.


What does Russia really want from Georgia? As in all issues between Russia and former satellite nations, the Kremlin wants to create or strengthen its ability to assert control over the independent governments, but there is much more to it than this.

Georgia is a state of contention, an area where the battle between East and West is waged. It is here and in the other zones of conflict where Russian leaders must take concrete steps to put their “new thinking” into action. We cannot see which path Putin and Medvedev will choose to take, mainly because they don’t appear to know themselves at this point which path they will choose for the immediate future. But, from all the sweet noises emanating from Lisbon so far, it seems that the Russians will stay firmly on the path to a global partnership with the US. The problem in all of this is how can Russia hold onto past gains without upsetting potential profits in the future. Putin’s dilemma is how to switch tracks from post-Soviet government, to the new globalist partnership with the USA without provoking an unmanageable social revolution in the interim period. How can he transition smoothly from the traditional stance of making trouble for American plans to one of working with the US planners. The problems will arise when the switchover takes place—one day the office will work in the old thinking, the next day the workers’ and the office managers’ minds must switch to the new track.

Putin’s dilemma becomes most obvious in the S. Caucasus Region, where Soviet map-maker agitation of ethnic divisions in the past comes into play against ever-changing pipeline plans. The US/Russian battle between South Stream and Nabucco pipeline plans has created uncertainty and a fuzzy notion of borders, so that the people, whose lives were being planned for them, have defensively turned to nationalism, with a stake in a future worth fighting for.

Defensive nationalism must be turned into an asset, by demonstrating where the new future must lie. Past attempts to overcome the inherent difficulties in pacifying the region can be seen in the creation of new enclaves with self-defined borders, such as S. Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. These guerrilla staging areas must be eliminated without ignoring the interests of the key players in them.

Can American and Russian leaders overcome Putins’ dilemma, through some sort of joint “peace offensive”? (SEE: The Peace Pipeline)

The recent steps taken by the players in the Azeri/Armenian conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh suggest that the US/Russian partnership is prepared to allow or encourage the military resolution of the issue, in order to prepare the two key nations for backed-up pipeline plans, even as they sign treaties committing them to abide by established “conflict resolution” measures.

Normally I avoid reading the Russian propaganda organ Pravda, but they have recently run a timely report on this impending issue (SEE: Russia to become involved in another war on post-Soviet space?). In addition to this Russian report, we have Armenia’s announcement that it would not be attending the ongoing NATO summit, as well as the following supplements: ( Armenia may ‘turn from Russia to USA’ ; Russia against ‘Turkmen-Azerbaijani reconciliation’ ; Russia perceives Turkey as opponent ).

By supporting the peaceful resolution of the Georgian issues, the US side is committing itself to resolving the stand-off with Russia over S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, even though Russia cannot surrender to Georgian ambitions. What price will Russia extract from Georgia, NATO and the US to relinquish territory deemed important enough to wage war over? Abkhazia became a Russian military enclave as a direct reaction to Sakaashvili’s de-Russification program. S. Ossetia blew-up when the Georgian leader tried to evict the Russians and block the single tunnel (Roki Tunnel) connecting North and South Ossetia, in an attempt to force the Russian forces to retreat beyond the Caucasus Mountains. In an ideal US/Russian partnership, the American presence in Georgia would also represent the interests of the Russian side.

Surely the ongoing discussions between US and Russian presidents in Lisbon concern the limitations to the global partnership and how differences between East and West can be kept hidden from the prying eyes of the global citizens and their uncontrollable free press. (SEE: US, Russian presidents hold unplanned meeting).

It is our job, as members of that uncontrollable free press, to ensure that all the secret plans for our future do not remain hidden....


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