Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has put European countries in an extremely difficult position. On the one hand, in solidarity with Ukraine, Europe continues to impose massive economic sanctions against Russia, but on the other hand, it cannot stop buying Russian gas, one of the main sources of foreign exchange earnings for the Russian economy.
And this is not surprising, given that Russia provides about 40 percent of all gas consumed in the European Union. It is no coincidence that Brussels is so eager to become independent of Russian gas imports as soon as possible. In search of new partners, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck has already visited Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where he discussed the prospects for energy cooperation.
Moreover, in desperate need to diversify hydrocarbon supplies and ensure its energy security, the European Union is simultaneously considering several options for active cooperation with gas producing countries, among which Azerbaijan is regarded as one of the most reliable and high-priority partners.
Of course, Azerbaijani gas cannot fully offset the Russian supplies, let alone meet the overall demand of the European market for natural gas. But Azerbaijan is perfectly capable of supporting the partners with additional gas supplies, while expanding the existing gas transportation system, which is of critical importance in the current situation.
Meanwhile, Europe increasingly often brings up the necessity of expanding the gas pipelines from Azerbaijan. In particular, Bulgaria’s representatives have insisted more than once recently on the need to expand the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), presenting detailed reports on the measures to expedite the construction of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) to receive contracted quantities of Azerbaijani gas.
It is noteworthy that the construction of IGB was constantly delayed due to poor fulfillment of obligations by Azerbaijan’s partners. Now, after the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions, the work has sped up and the interconnector is expected to be commissioned by July 1 of this year, at which point Bulgaria will be able to receive the entire contracted amount of Azerbaijani gas.
The influential EU Reporter also wrote about the need to expand the gas pipeline from Azerbaijan. In particular, the article says that the expansion of the pipeline, which would allow to pump annually not ten billion cubic meters of gas to the EU, but twenty, may take several years. But, according to the EU Reporter, it has to be done, because Europe’s energy security is at stake.
Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, speaking at the conference on the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) in Baku, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson subtly hinted that the security of Azerbaijani gas supplies to Europe is beyond any doubt.
In response President Ilham Aliyev said that by completing the SGC project Azerbaijan had been able to increase gas exports, which in 2021 amounted to 19 bcm, of which 8.5 bcm was pumped to Turkey, almost 7 bcm to Italy, and the rest was exported to Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria. Once Albania completes the construction of its own gas distribution network, this country will also become a recipient of Azerbaijani gas.
Reminding the conference participants that Azerbaijan’s proven gas reserves alone total 2.6 trillion cubic meters, Ilham Aliyev emphasized that there is a real need for Azerbaijani gas in the new markets, and Baku is completely prepared to meet it, as Azerbaijan has always been and remains a reliable supplier of energy resources.
“The latest data on the share of Azerbaijani gas in international markets of gas importing countries shows that some countries buy 80 percent of their gas from Azerbaijan, while in others it accounts for 15-20 percent of overall gas consumption,” President Aliyev said. “I would like to assure the conference participants that these figures will grow, as we are planning to ramp up gas production…”
As already stated, of course, Azerbaijan will not be able to prevent the energy crisis that may overtake Europe in the event it gives up Russian gas altogether. At the same time, for a number of European states, gas from Azerbaijan is a kind of “window of opportunity” that allows minimizing crisis losses and strengthening energy security.
Translated from Haqqin.az