Construction of the South Stream gas pipeline could be frozen: the Eiuropean Union considers the possibility of suspension of the project as a measure of influence on Russia. European Commision chairman Jose Manuel Barrozu said that the gas pipeline from Azerbaijan through Italy could become a priority for Europe instead of the South Stream, if Baku is able to withdstand to Russia’s pressure.
As far as the sanctions against Russia as a response to annexation of Crimea are concenred, the European Energy Commissar Gunter Oettinger immediately said that he will postpone the talks on the South Stream and offered Europe to immediately seek the ways to increase gas import.
Ilham Shaban, head of the Centre for Oil Studies, said that not only political factors should be taken into consideration while evaluating the tendencies.
The Brussels officials have warned Bulgaria that it needs to stick to the common European strategy. Right now Bulgaria is more than other Eastern European countries interested in importing gas from various directions. Bulgaria has faced the gas problem twice – in 2006 and in 2009. On the other hand, this is one of European countries that is completely dependent on the Russian gas, which comes from the north through Ukraine and Moldova. In case of any problems, Bulgaria does not have other ways to supply itself with gas. For this reason in 2013 Bulgargaz signed the contract for delivery of Azerbaijani gas from the Shah-Deniz-2 project for the period of 25 years.
However, the expert believes that this gas will be delivered to the Bulgarian markets no earlier, than 2019. Till that time the country is interested in construction of interconnectors either with Turkey, or Greece. On the other hand, Bulgaria is the member of EU, which has brought up the issue of reduction of energy dependence of the entire European market, because of Russia’s actions against Ukraine. If other transit countries do not support the ground section of the South Stream, then Russia will not implement a multi-billion project for the sake of Bulgaria alone.
The energy projects are implemented on the basis of rather commercial estimates, than political statements. The West has made a lot of statements, the headlines in media are very politicized and I think the cold war will last a long time. The contract to export Azerbaijani gas, which was signed on September 19, 2013, envisages export of 10 billion cub.m. of gas via the Southern Gas Corridor since 2019, if it is available. We can talk about additional volumes, if we receive new proposals in case of excalation of tension between the EU and Russia.
“Azerbaijan has the route, all the contracts and sub-contracts have been signed, 16,000 people must work day and night to finish the project by 2019. This is a very challenging task, we need to get 3,500-km-long infrastructure ready. The Shah-Deniz-2 is not the deepest field in the Caspian Sea, but it is a geologically difficult one. It will be a grandious achievement of Azerbaijan to to start extraction of the first gas by the declared time and then start deliveries to Europe. Only after that one can think about satisfying needs of Europe in gas, Shaban concluded.