ECONOMY

Greek-Turkish gas pipeline may finally be launched in the spring

ANKARA (Combined reports) – Turkey’s pipeline company Botas said yesterday that completion of a $300 million, 285-kilometer natural gas pipeline linking Turkey to Greece and Italy will be delayed until next summer from this month. Botas’s acting general manager, Saltuk Duzyol, told Reuters in an interview the decision was the result of construction delays. Greece and Turkey agreed in 2004 to build the pipeline as part of ambitious plans to transport gas from the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to energy-hungry Europe. «Greece can be ready in May or in June… We had planned to start exports to Greece with 250-million cubic meters. Turkey can still finish it on time but it looks difficult in Greece,» he said. A Turkish consortium chosen to build the underwater section of the pipeline has said the line would be ready by November 2006. Turkish and Greek officials had said the first gas would flow between Turkey and Greece in early 2007. The European Union-funded project is part of the bloc’s efforts to diversify its energy resources away from energy giant Russia to the energy-rich Caspian Sea and Central Asian countries. The line has a 12 billion cubic-meter-a-year capacity. Turkey itself is dependent on imported energy and it will pump the gas which it buys from Russia, Iran, Egypt and central Asian Turkish countries to Greece. «Greece is demanding to buy 3.6 billion cubic meters and Italy is asking for 8 billion,» said Duzyol. Separately, Botas has agreed to raise its natural gas purchases from its top supplier Russian gas giant Gazprom for this year, he said. It has raised its buying to 42 million cubic meters in 2006 from the current 38 million a day through a pipeline cutting across the Balkans, Duzyol said. Turkey also buys Russian gas from the Blue Stream pipeline which runs under the Black Sea. Ankara turned to Moscow for more gas last winter when its second-biggest supplier Iran suspended exports to meet its own soaring consumption due to a harsh winter. In Athens, managing director of Public Gas Company (DEPA), Asimakis Papageorgiou, said in response to Duzyol’s statements that Greece will be ready to receive the gas in the spring. Other reports said there are delays in the section of the project constructed by the Turks under the Evros River, due to the fact that the contractor has gone bankrupt. (Reuters, Kathimerini)