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    Southern Gas Corridor Discussed in Greece



Variety of approaches on Southern Corridor outlined between governments and corporations

by: Ioannis Michaletos

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Top Stories, Pipelines, Security of Supply, East Med, Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) , Interconnector-Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI) , Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) , Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) , Turk/Turkish Stream, News By Country, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Turkey, , Greece, Balkans/SEE Focus, Caspian Focus

Southern Gas Corridor Discussed in Greece

During the proceedings of the annual Athens Energy Forum 2015, the theme of the emerging Southern Corridor was touched upon by a cadre of experienced and influential stakeholders and specialists.

The director of the International Centre for Defence Studies and former US Ambassador, Matthew Bryza, pointed out Turkey's decision to enact its participation in Turkish Stream (Turk Stream). The goal of Turkey is to become the unquestionable gas hub in the region and to send a message, primarily to the EU and US, that it has plenty of options regarding its energy security strategy.

Nevertheless, Mr. Bryza assessed that Turkey's strong links with Azerbaijan would remain so in the future and would assist in the development of the Southern Gas Corridor. He estimated that in the future, Ankara may decide to leave Turkish Stream altogether and stick only with the TANAP plan, if it believes that this will be for the benefit of Baku.

Regarding Greece's strategy, Mr. Bryza estimated that the country is in a favorable position and has the capacity to become a strategic hub for new pipelines. That is why Athens needs to diversify its supplies and strongly support the Southern Gas Corridor as a major milestone towards that aim. This with also help with the reduction of gas prices for the whole of the economy and raise up the competitiveness of the local economy.

BP's Vice President of External Affairs and Communication for the Southern Corridor, Emily Olson, placed foremost importance on the "unlocking" of the Caspian Basin via the TANAP-TAP system of pipelines. The Corridor should be implemented as soon as possible in order to achieve a pragmatic diversification via the introduction of major Caspian gas volumes in the coming years. Greece according to Olson should have political stability, so as to be able to support TAP and the speedy tempo required for the realization of such a complicated project.

TAP's External Affairs Director, Michael Hoffmann, stated that the coming three years would be characterized by the construction phase of the pipeline and by mid-2019, the project should be ready to implement tests so as to be commercially ready in 2020. Mr. Hoffman also gave several details regarding the progress of the pipeline in Greece and specifically the number of land plots in negotiation for buyout by the consortium which are 350, whilst there are 127 changes in the route so far after consultation with local authorities. Mr. Hoffman also expressed his warm sentiments for the support of the Greek government in the project. Minor disagreements are all under the careful consideration by the stakeholders. TAP, according to Mr. Hoffmann, is a major strategic infrastructure endeavour for the country that will create jobs and increase the confidence of foreign investors. It will also put Greece at the heart of the EU energy map.

Senior VP of Edison, Elio Ruggeri, who manages the proposed Interconnector Greece-Italy (ITGI), assessed that as far as the Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB) is concerned, it will be operational by 2018 and it would be coupled thereafter with ITGI. ITGI is still a viable alternative option once a new gas supplier emerges in the region. Mr. Ruggeri further explained that substantial amounts of gas are going to be directed towards the tri-border region of Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria within the coming years, which was an indirect reference to the new Turk Stream. In that sense, the TAP and TANAP system would not be able to deal with the massive volumes, thus a new route such a ITGI would be well placed to transfer excessive volumes from Turkey to Italy via Greece.

Mr. Ruggeri also pointed out that the IGI Poseidon, a company managed by Edison, is also interested in the proposed East Med Pipeline and in the near future a consortium of consultants will deliver research regarding proposed routes and estimated costs of that supply route.

US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy, Robin Dubbigan, presented the US approach on the subject discussed. Ms. Dubbigan commented on the current Ukrainian crisis and the subsequent need for energy security in the region, thus betting on the crucial role of the Southern Gas Corridor as a main transfer path for Caspian gas into the EU.

In that way non-Russian gas could find its way into the European markets and enchase energy security by diversifying supplies. She also expressed her satisfaction for the way the Greek government supports TAP and also remarked on the importance of IGB that needs to be completed soon as to be coupled with the rest of the Southern Gas Corridor's infrastructure.

Regarding potential challenges, Ms. Dubbigan placed importance into two key elements. One is the financing of the Southern Gas Corridor and the second are "diversions" caused by other infrastructure projects such as the Turk Stream, which she characterized as an immature plan. Furthermore, Turk Stream does not bring about new sourced gas - it is old gas following a different route. Overall, the high-ranking diplomat stated that the US is working constantly to ensure energy security in the wider region.