Greece on Tuesday launched construction on a 550-kilometre (342-mile) section of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras eager for the 8,000 jobs for the country’s crisis-hit economy.
Planned to operate from 2019, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will bring gas from the vast Azerbaijani Shah Deniz 2 field via western Turkey to Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic to Italy.
TAP is 870 kilometres long, running from Komotini in northeastern Greece to Puglia, Italy.
It will cover 215 kilometres across Albania, 105 kilometres under the Adriatic and a final eight kilometres in Italy.
Tsipras said the pipeline would usher Greece and Europe into a "new era."
"TAP is one of the greatest direct foreign investment projects carried out in Greece," Tsipras said at the ceremony held in Thessaloniki.
For crisis-hit Greece, it means an investment of over 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) and 8,000 jobs, the premier said.
"The Greek economy really needs these jobs," he added.
The 53,000 pipes used to build it weigh the equivalent of 72 Eiffel Towers, according to officials.
It will have an annual capacity of 10 million cubic metres, meeting the needs of some seven million households.
"Once complete, TAP will be a major asset in the European energy security tool box," said European Union Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who was also present at the ceremony.
"By opening up access to gas from Azerbaijan, TAP will allow many countries, including in Central and South East Europe to diversify their sources of gas," he said.
TAP is designed to link up with the 1,850 kilometre (1,150 mile) Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) – to be completed in 2018 – and the existing South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), which links Turkey to the Azerbaijani gas fields in the Caspian Sea through Georgia.
Together, the three pipelines will form what has been called the Southern Gas Corridor.
"Southern Gas Corridor will be vital for reaching the Energy Union objectives of diversification of sources, routes and energy security. Therefore timely completion is crucial so that gas from the new suppliers can flow to Europe by 2020," Sefcovic said.
The total investment in Shah Deniz 2, including the cost of the pipeline infrastructure, is $40-45 billion.
The field will have 16 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas production per year. [AFP]