Gas Wars: the Southern Front

Russia may try to isolate Georgia and Azerbaijan by engaging its energy lever, thinks former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and current researcher Matthew Bryza of the US Atlantic Council.

2536354 01.12.2014 1 декабря 2014. Глава “Газпрома” Алексей Миллер (второй слева) и глава Botas Petroleum Pipeline Corporation Мехмет Конук подписывают меморандум о взаимопонимании по строительству морского газопровода на церемонии подписания российско-турецких документов по результатам переговоров в Анкаре. Михаил Климентьев/РИА Новости
2536354 01.12.2014 1 декабря 2014. Глава
2536354 01.12.2014 1 декабря 2014. Глава

Russia may try to isolate Georgia and Azerbaijan by engaging its energy lever, thinks former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and current researcher Matthew Bryza of the US Atlantic Council.

According to him, the transition of relations between the region’s two largest players – Russia and Turkey – to a new phase will give Moscow the opportunity to re-orient its energy supply routes.

Bryza is sure that one of the aims of the construction of the pipeline, “Turkish Stream”, in addition to being a direct delivery of Russian gas into the European Union and bypassing Ukraine, is to lessen investments in the energy sector of Azerbaijan. This, the expert says, is a part of the Russian strategy aimed at strengthening its influence in the South Caucasus.

In particular, if Russian initiatives to build pipelines in the direction of Europe come to fruition, the likelihood that Azerbaijan’s similar projects would work out becomes significantly less.

Projects of the Russian “Gazprom”, such as Southern Stream and Turkish Stream are considered direct opponents of the so – called, Southern Gas Corridor, in which one can include the South Caucasian Pipeline (SCP) or Baku – Tbilisi – Erzurum and the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) with a continuation in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

The later is supposed to be put into operation at the end of 2018; it will begin operating at its full capacity in the beginning of 2020, and the receivers of this energy will be the countries of Southern Europe. TAP will open opportunities to further export gas into Germany, France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Austria.

The construction of TAP and TANAP should lower the dependency of Southern Europe on Russian gas. However, Russia’s Southern Stream may become a serious rival for Azerbaijan. This position is based off the fact that gas deliveries from the “Southern Gas Corridor” are still a ways off in the future. And if the project comes to fruition, Azerbaijan will not be able to export more than 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Moreover, “Nord Stream 2” and “Turkish Stream” will also give Russia the ability to completely wean itself off its dependency on Ukraine’s hydrocarbon transportation system that feeds into Europe and Turkey. In such a way, Ukraine will lose its status as a special transit corridor, and will be replaced by Turkey.

Experts are sure that the European Union will not give the green light to “Turkish Stream” given that it has previously blocked “South Stream.” According to information in the Western media, statements declaring Russia’s intent to renew the pipeline project gave rise to much dissatisfaction in political circles of the EU.

However, the European Commission gave the go ahead to TAP. The executive authority of the EU has admitted that the Trans-Adriatic pipeline is more in keeping with European legislation.

Experts see a strategic approach behind this, however, which will remake the European energy map in the near future. That is; the gradual replacement of dependency on Russian gas with Azerbaijani gas and other sources as well. If Iran were to come onto the energy grid, in addition to Turkmenistan and Iraq, then their total export volume could equal 30 billion cubic meters per year, which would begin to make for a formidable rival to Russia’s energy exports.

Moreover, Azerbaijani experts have a sober understanding of the “Southern Gas Corridor” and its ability to compete with Russian gas exports. For example, political analyst Farid Quliyev is sure that in the near future, the transport of Azerbaijani gas into Europe will barely affect the market Russia already dominates. However, according to him, the new gas corridor will help Azerbaijan become one of the largest energy exporters in the region and will again raise its recently – fallen energy revenues.

This, Quliyev says, will be particularly observable after 2020.

“Turkish Stream” is a direct descendant of the failed “Southern Stream.” Its fate, however, was also in balance because of the recent Russian – Turkish conflict in Fall of 2015 concerning the Su-24. But Moscow and Ankara have overcome this dispute and in October of 2016, Russia and Turkey entered into a formal agreement on the gas pipeline complex, “Turkish Stream.”

The onshore section will be held by a Turkish company, while the maritime portion will be held by a Russian company.

According to the declared plans of Gazprom, the construction of the maritime section of “Turkish Stream” will begin in the second half of 2017. The two threads, each with a flow capacity of 16 billion cubic meters per year, will be installed by the end of 2019.

The gas pipeline will follow the depths of the Black Sea up until the European portion of Turkey, and will flow further into Greece. Reservoirs and maintenance facilities will be built in Turkey for further transport into Europe. 900 kilometers of pipeline will go by sea – 200 on land.

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