There were a number of high level speakers, including notably Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy, and Sokol Dervishaj, the Albanian Deputy Minister of Energy.
Welcoming TAP’s initiative to host a debate on security of energy supply in South Eastern Europe, Commissioner Günther Oettinger said he was eager to learn more about TAP’s proposals for the region, indicating that “the Commission is ready to support TAP and any other project developer that works to improve the network in South Eastern Europe.”
Coming from a region characterised by overdependence on a single energy supplier, Minister Dervishaj underlined that Albania’s top priority is to secure new supplies of oil and gas resources as well as to develop the Balkan gas ring. He expressed confidence that the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline and TAP would facilitate this process saying, “TAP is the only project in the Southern Gas Corridor that will fulfil both the objectives of the EU as well as those of the Energy Community This is the best project due to the good it can do for the region.”
As a transit country, Turkey will play a key role in the Southern Gas Corridor. Dr. Reha Morato'lu, Head of Transit Oil Pipelines at the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, joined the discussion just two days after the successful conclusion of a marathon of negotiations between Turkey and Azerbaijan, which culminated in the signature of the long-awaited Intergovernmental Agreement. The IGA between the two countries provides the necessary legal framework for transport of Caspian natural gas via Turkey to Europe. Addressing the audience, Dr. Morato'lu clarified that Turkey is committed to upgrade the country’s existing infrastructure for transport of gas through its territory.
Matthew Hulbert, Energy Analyst for the European Energy Review, delivered a comprehensive presentation on the role of infrastructure in supporting Balkan integration into Europe. While stressing that only one project will be chosen to open up the Southern Gas Corridor, Hulbert warned of the danger of focussing on one project alone to the exclusion of other projects, saying “If it [Nabucco] doesn’t work in the future, then we are just creating political risk factors for the smaller pipelines that could actually deliver, notably TAP and ITGI”.
Founder of the TransCaspian Initiative, Borut Grgic, echoing the same theme as Mr Hulbert, noted that the issue of energy security in South Eastern Europe is far more severe than those of Western Europe. “The winning pipeline will need to offer a solution to this region as well. Otherwise, the EU will need to come back later to solve this problem.”
On growth, Peter Arp, E.ON Ruhrgas Vice President of Sales for Central and Eastern Europe, underlined that while current demand for gas in the region is lower than in central Europe, the growth potential is higher and estimated at 15bcm per year. Getting Caspian gas to this region is necessary to ease the region’s 90% dependence on a single supplier.
Speaking for the operator of the Shah Deniz II consortium, Howard Chase, Director of European Governmental Affairs at BP, announced that the evaluation of the pipeline bids is well underway. “The objective remains to make a decision on the winning project by the year end” he said.
Closing the forum, Managing Director, Kjetil Tungland, underlined that TAP is confident that it can provide a solid solution that will transport gas from the Caspian region to South Eastern Europe in a cost-effective and technically reliable way. “In order to turn this vision into reality, it is important that the Shah Deniz consortium makes the appropriate decision soon”, Tungland concluded.