Greece to tap major pipeline benefits

The official announcement on Friday that the consortium operating the Shah Deniz II natural gas reserve in Azerbaijan had chosen the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) has formally laid the groundwork for the creation of the South Stream project that the European Union has been discussing for over 10 years. Its significance for Greece is multiple, as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras noted, referring to it as one of the biggest projects ever in Southern Europe.

The pipeline that will run across northern Greece transmitting Azeri gas to Central Europe will bring foreign direct investment of some 1.5 billion euros to this country, and the premier said it is a project that “sets Greece firmly on the map of gas pipelines and energy supply across Europe.”

He added that it represents a “significant vote of confidence” in Greece and its prospects, and that “the ‘disaster scenarios’ concerning Greece and for a Grexit will definitely be terminated.”

Samaras qualified the TAP news as “the most significant, positive economic development concerning our country within the last 10 years,” and noted that it will enable Greece “to become, besides an energy transport hub, also an energy producer and exporter.”

A study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) expects the benefit to the Greek economy in the next 50 years to come to 17-18 billion euros. The construction work, which will start next spring, will create 8,000-10,000 jobs while the operation of the pipeline will mean 4,300 jobs for the next 50 years.

What is more important, according to IOBE, is whether Greek companies will embrace TAP and participate actively in it. The foundation also expects major benefits for the economy of northern Greece, as an estimated 60 percent of the gross added value – or 11 billion euros – will benefit the region.

Deputy Energy Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou revealed on Friday that the Host Government Agreement Athens has signed includes an option for a 5 percent participation in the TAP consortium after the start of its commercial operation, expected in 2019.

He also said Greece will be the first country to receive Azeri gas via TAP as the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) has asked for an annual quantity of 1 billion cubic meters, at a price far lower than what it currently pays Russian firm Gazprom and Azeri rival Botas.