It is the latest international political agreement before the final decision expected in June by the group that manages the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan but officially marks support for the project of the three candidate countries to host the infrastructure.
Albania, Italy and Greece have put on paper their assent to the trans-Adriatic methane pipeline Tap which will bring gas from the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to Europe, bypassing Russia and Ukraine, and which will open the so-called "southern corridor" of the gas. A project that aims to increase European energy security, diversify the supply of natural fuel (even compared to North African sources) and guarantee greater security of storage for the European market in the event of operational interruptions. In the intentions of the three governments there is the go-ahead to 800 km of a distribution network that wants to have great strategic importance and a written understanding necessary to ensure cooperation between states for the timely construction of the pipeline.
The Tap, Trans Adriatic Pipeline, will have a range of 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year starting from the 2017-18, and can be expanded to reach 20 billion cubic meters when other gas sources become available.
The pipeline, with a diameter of 90 cm (made with cutting-edge welding techniques that make it flexible and adaptable both to the seabed and to the subsoil), will transport natural gas from the Shah Deniz II deposits in Azerbaijan, through Greece, Albania and, passing under the Adriatic Sea, to Puglia. From Italy it will then reach Western Europe.
More precisely, the project provides for an extension of approximately 478 km in Greece, 204 in Albania, 105 in the Adriatic Sea and 5 km in Italy. Gas transport will start near the Greek-Turkish border, in Komotini, it will cross Albania and with an underwater pipeline it will connect to the Italian distribution network near San Foca (Lecce).
In Albania the creation of gas storage facilities is also being evaluated (they would not be possible in Salento because there would be no geomorphological preconditions), since storage is a key condition of the European supply security strategy such as the physical reverse flow, ie the possibility of quickly activating, in the event of an emergency or interruptions of supply upstream (as happened in Ukraine in 2009), the opposite flow of gas from Italy and from North Africa to Greece and south-eastern Europe. The underground gas depot could be located in the Dumre region. As for the Albanian pipeline route, the network should wind towards Bilisht Qendër in the Korça region on the border with Greece, avoiding sites of natural interest. The terminal for the terrestrial section of the pipeline will be along the north coast of Fier, then the pipelines will flow under the sea for about 60-70 km.
The "southern corridor", designed to supply Europe with natural gas, links with the southern Caucasian gas pipeline, completed in 2007, which connects Baku in Azerbaijan to Erzurum in Turkey, passing through Georgia and guaranteeing a range of 8,8 billion meters cubes a year. The gas then flows into the Turkish infrastructure Botas. The Tap will cover the existing void between Greece, Albania and Italy, as there is no infrastructure for transporting gas between the two coasts. In this way, the passage of fuel from the Caspian Sea to Italy and to the rest of continental Europe will be completed.
Thanks to secondary connections along the way, the Tap could also supply gas to other markets in south-eastern Europe, including Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Hungary. In doing so, it could be integrated into the Western Balkan Energy Ring.
By June 2013, the consortium of Shah Deniz manager of the Azeri field will make the final selection of the gas pipeline project that will transport gas to Europe through the "south corridor". The Tap is in competition with the Nabucco West project.
Shareholders of the Tap are the Swiss company Axpo (42.5%), the Norwegian company Statoil (42.5%) and the German E.
On Ruhrgas (15%). The joint venture is based in Switzerland and operational offices in the three countries involved in the project: Tirana, Rome and Athens.
The rival project is Nabucco West, supported instead by the Austrian company Omv, the German Rwe, the Hungarian Mol and the Turkish Botas. This second project would send Azeri gas from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary and would flow into the Austrian terminal of Baumgarten.
Once the decision has been made and all the environmental and structural approvals will be obtained (last January 21 the Tap presented 4 thousand pages of environmental and social impact assessment Esia, at the National Licensing Center of Albania in relation to the Albanian portion of the pipeline), the construction of the pipeline can begin.
The intergovernmental go-ahead to Tap came on February 13 with the signing of representatives of Albania, Italy and Greece for a trilateral agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Athens. It lays the foundations for the creation of common standards relating to technical, legal, legal, fiscal, environmental, security and human resource use aspects.
Waiting for the final go-ahead to be followed by three years of work and at least six before the plant can be put into operation, the project has collected, in addition to the protests of various environmental groups, also the interest and support of the Albanian government. Besides being one of the largest foreign investments in the country and a private project that does not involve EU funding, it could help Albania in its process of commercial and infrastructural integration with Europe. The construction of the methane pipeline could actually increase the Albanian national and geo-strategic importance, promoting the stability of the country and preparing it for potential entry into the EU. From an energy point of view, the Tap company also confirms the possibility of satisfying domestic energy needs: shareholders would be willing to supply up to a billion cubic meters of gas a year to the Albanian market and to south-eastern Europe.
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