Nabucco pipeline boosts prospects with Azeri deal

January 11, 2013 - 5:52:36 am

SOFIA/LONDON: Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas group has agreed a deal that could see it take a stake in the Nabucco pipeline to transport the country’s gas to Europe, boosting the project’s chances against a rival plan.  

The Shah Deniz 2 consortium, which has already signed a funding deal with the competing Trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP) project, has said taking a stake in Nabucco would be critical for the project to go ahead. 

The companies behind the Nabucco pipeline said yesterday the deal, announced in Sofia and to be finalised in Vienna, would give Shah Deniz 2 a 50 percent stake if it chooses their project as its European export route, in return for joint funding and development of the pipeline.

“With real upstream people as partners, we move in the direction of developing more than just something on a paper, but into direction of a real pipeline,” said Gerhard Roiss, chief executive of Austria’s OMV, a shareholder in Nabucco. Rival TAP plans to pipe Azeri gas to Italy while Nabucco would transport Caspian supplies to Europe via Austria.

The European Union supports the delivery of Azeri gas to the region, expected to start in 2018, regardless of which pipeline is chosen, to reduce its dependency on Russian gas imports. Analysts said the deal did not come as a surprise and the Shah Deniz 2 group, whose shareholders include Azerbaijan state energy firm SOCAR, was trying to boost its bargaining power ahead of making a decision over which pipeline to choose.