Turkey and Azerbaijan will on Tuesday formally begin construction on a new gas pipeline costing over $10 billion which will pump gas from the vast Azerbaijani Shah Deniz 2 field across Anatolia to Turkish and EU consumers.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev will attend the ceremony marking the start of work on the pipeline in the Kars region of eastern Turkey, part of a drive aimed at reducing dependence on Russian gas.
The 1,850 kilometre (1,150 mile) Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) pipeline, which is due to be completed in 2018, is to link up to the existing South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) which links Turkey to the Azerbaijani gas fields in the Caspian Sea through Georgia.
The backers of the project expect that the TANAP will then link up with the planned Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will bring the gas from western Turkey to Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic to Italy.
Azerbaijani media have estimated the pipelines cost at $10-11 billion, well above initial estimates when the project was first conceived.
According to the partnership agreement signed last week, Azerbaijan’s state energy firm SOCAR and Turkey’s Botas will hold 58 percent and 30 percent stakes respectively while British energy giant BP has a 12 percent share.
“There will be no political obstacle before this project,” Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at last week’s partnership ceremony.
“I hope that we will consume the natural gas from Shah Deniz 2 both in Turkey and Europe by the end of 2018.”
The pipeline should help Turkey and the European Union reduce dependence on imports of gas from Russia by exploiting the Shah Deniz 2 field, which according to BP will have 16 billion cubic metres of gas production per year.
However Turkey, whose relations with Moscow have warmed considerably in recent years, is also talking with Russia on a new Turkish Stream pipeline that will pump Russian gas under the Black Sea to its territory and Europe.
The Turkish Stream pipeline is aimed at replacing Russias South Stream project for pumping gas to Europe avoiding Ukraine, which President Vladimir Putin dramatically pulled last year citing a lack of cooperation from the EU.
Russia has expressed doubts about the TANAP project with its envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizov saying it was “extremely challenging from a technical point of view” and “exorbitantly expensive”.
However Yildiz said that TANAP was not a rival to Turkish Stream, whose final terms are still being negotiated with Russia.