Expanding Italy’s energy role in the Mediterranean, the country has inked a memorandum of cooperation that would see natural gas from Azerbaijan transported through existing infrastructure belonging to Snam.
According to Azerbaijani media reports, state oil company SOCAR signed the MOU last week with Italy’s Snam that would ensure cooperation “to assess initiatives put forth for the development of the Southern Gas Corridor”.
Since confronting the effects of a halt in Russian gas through Ukraine in 2009, amid a pricing dispute, Europe has made a concerted effort to diversify its natural gas supply options.
Efforts have included increasing cooperation with North African producers, increasing renewable alternatives, modest domestic exploration and infrastructure investment to close transport deficits between member states. However, despite lowering its dependence on Russian gas from 45 to 30 percent, Europe’s push has been limited by a series of setbacks on all fronts, not least the impact of instability across North Africa on hydrocarbon production and output.
This leaves the region intent on pursuing new import options like the Southern Gas Corridor, which would require a substantial investment from all stakeholder governments and companies.
The MOU also included technical exchanges involving construction and the operation of necessary transportation equipment.
The agreement also puts Italy on the same page as other regional actors who’ve courted Azerbaijan and the country’s reserves, most notably found in the Shah Deniz field.
Late last year, then Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promoted the country’s transport potential for natural gas while in Azerbaijan, home to significant and active reserves on a trip to the country.
Samaras’ presence in Azerbaijan came on the 20th anniversary of the country’s natural gas agreements centered on the Shah Deniz field. The prime minister took the chance to promote Greece’s potential as a regional transport hub, including increasing storage capacity at its LNG terminal and improvements to port infrastructure.
Like Greece, Italy has some modest domestic production efforts, but has made a concerted efforts in recent years to ease demand on costly imports and establish a new energy role in the region.