Not Blue Stream
The administration of USA President George W. Bush has congratulated leaders of Italy, Turkey and Greece with making of contract about new alternative gas pipeline from the Caspian region to Europe. “The United States congratulates the Prime Ministers of Turkey, Greece, and Italy on their signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement for the Turkey-Greece-Italy Pipeline (TGI) today in Rome,” - says the official announcement of the Spokesman of the U.S. Department of State, Sean McCormack,
There is nothing astonishing in this statement, since the USA are already for a long time quite a significant player in the Caspian region, so an agreement aimed at export of the gas to Europe can be only avail for the USA.
But the Caspian gas is becoming increasingly more interesting for the USA. This March Azerbaijan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov and the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Security Cooperation in the Caspian Region. In the opinion of the USA Russia is de facto the major supplierof gas in Europe that is a violation of the competitive principle. Turkey receives 65 percent of gas from Russia, as well as Europe, which gets fro Russia 40 percent of gas.
That’s why the USA has been hatching a geopolitical idea of the South Stream long since. The so-called South Stream, i.e. a way of gas transit from the Caspian region through Turkey to Europe and, can totally change the strategic map of Eurasia, since it offers Europe a better hope on large supplies of the natural gas that will allow to ensure diversification and retreat from the even more deepening dependence on one supplier or one net, reckons Deputy Secretary of State on Europe and Eurasia.
U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza recently argued that “What this agreement is about is building on Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum to help Azerbaijan attract investment, to expand its gas production, move that gas through that BTE pipeline, and then take that gas and move it onward to Greece and Italy through a pipeline that is almost completed called the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline, and that’s mentioned in the MOU.”
“Also, later, as gas production in Azerbaijan increases, we hope the gas will also move in the so-called Nabucco pipeline -– named after the opera, Nabucco.”
Nabucco is to pass through Turkey-Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria. The project costs 5 billion euros and is to over in 2011.
Imbalance of plans
The Azerbaijani state-run oil company (SOCAR) has already announced about its intension to transport gas in Greece in this year. The president of the company Rovnag Abdullayev argued that according to the agreement between Turkey and Greece, Greece will receive 800 mcm of gas at the cost of $149 per 1 thousand cubic meters; SOCAR intends to export a half of all the amount.
The problem is that Azerbaijan gas will not be enough. “The gas pipeline Baku-Erzurum, and, correspondingly, one through Turkey-Greece-Italy are intended nor for Azerbaijani gas but for one of Central Asia. Azerbaijan can fill it up only for 30-40%. The country certainly has such potential but it should be developed, since the country has always focused attention on oil,” supposes professor for political sciences, head of Eurasian Media Group Vartan Toganyan.
And here a game has just begun. Until now Turkmenistan has not declared for its participation in the project, but in theory the gas pipeline Baku-Erzurum is intended for Turkmenian gas. “Turkmenistan has sufficient reserves of gas to meet all export requirements; so Nabucco opens new possibilities for it. Certainly, new investments are required and Russian companies can participate in it, but technically there are no difficulties. It is rather a matter of policy; so, the new president of Turkmenistan has quite a deliberate policy. Thus it will certainly allow Turkmenistan to feel more free during negotiations for the transit prices with Russia, but it’s a business. Russia behaves in the same way with Ukraine and Belarus,” argues an analyst of the Panorama research center Anvar Amirov.
In theory Iran can also export its gas via this pipeline, but here a Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy interferes. The USA position stays still unchangeable, it won’t cancel sanctions imposed on Iran. “In the future Iran will certainly try joining such projects and entering the gas market of the European Union,” reckons Toganyan. But at the moment Iran has problems with gas supplies even in the North of the country, since its gas fields are situated in the south.
European gas importers try hard to use this resource to diversify gas supplies as much as possible. At the moment natural gas is received mostly from Russia or en route from Central Asia. Analysts estimate, in 2030 year volume of oil and gas import in the EU countries will increase up to 60 percent. All this gas will be supplied from countries not being member of the Union. Thus a problem of diversification of gas resources is extremely important for Europe, so it is very interested in Azerbaijani gas. Thomas Geisel, Senior Vice-President of E.ON Ruhrgas AG recently claimed that the company planned to receive 20-25 bcm of Azerbaijani gas per year.
Can they begin without us?
However, plans of Europe and the USA to create a new system of energy security are still nothing but plans. Baku-Erzurum project is still being developed, stressed Toagnyan, and Europe will face serious problems. After Saparmurat Niyazov’s death Turkmenistan headed for diversification of gas resources distribution, signed with Russia and Kazakhstan an agreement on Trans-Caspian gas pipeline construction. According to the analyst that can become a serious hindrance for European plans to obtain a monopoly for Caspian gas resources. But Gazprom also is not exactly enamoured with the idea of the South stream.
Vladimir Putin stated repeatedly that Russia was a “reliable partner” and that violation of European energy security was simple not on. Moreover, according to Putin, Russia is just a guarantor of the European energy security. From the very inflexion of these statements and from how frequent they are repeated, it becomes obvious that Russian authorities are seriously anxious with positions of Gazprom on European markets and with plans of gas supplies diversifications. At the same time Gazprom tries to establish alternative supplies in Turkey, i.e. to lurch Baku-Erzrum project.
As a matter of fact Gazprom is already supplying Turkey with gas, but Turkey is not still a transit country for Russian gas. “One should take into account an upturn in economics of Turkey, although at the moment it is fully secured. It cannot be excluded that in this situation Turkey will use its strategic position and become a transit country, as, for example, Ukraine does,” reckons Anvar Amirov.
Prospects of the so boosted project Blue Stream-2 (a pipeline via Black Sea in Turkey) are still obscure; no definite terms have been announced. Now a new agreement between Turkey, Italy and Greece has been signed, and that gives possibility for rapid realization of TGI project. Thus it’s high time for thinking of the Blue Stream-2 seriously.