Southern Gas Corridor to Be Completed by 2020

The Southern Gas Corridor, a major construction project for a natural gas supply route, is due to be completed by 2020. The European Commission’s initiative will reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas and diversify energy supply sources by creating a gas supply route from the Middle Eastern and Caspian regions to Europe.

The route, expected to cost a total of $45 billion, has secured $4.4 billion of funding to complete the final segment, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. The final section runs 878 kilometers from the Greek-Turkish border through Albania and the Adriatic Sea before terminating in Southern Italy.

The Southern Gas Corridor is made up of three pipelines: the South Caucasus Pipeline through Azerbaijan and Georgia, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline through Turkey, and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline through Greece, Albania, and Italy. Together, the pipelines are 3,500 kilometers long.

17 commercial banks, as well as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and export credit agencies from France, Germany, and Italy, are funding the project.

TAP is highly important to the EU. Currently, the EU depends largely on other countries for its energy; approximately 54% of the EU’s gross inland energy is imported from abroad, especially from Russia. “Many countries in Central and South-East Europe are dependent on a single supplier for most or all of their natural gas,” reads a statement on the European Commission's website. “To help them diversify their supplies, the Southern Gas Corridor aims to expand infrastructure that can bring gas to the EU from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Eastern Mediterranean Basin.”

Nonetheless, the project is not without controversy. Fossil fuels are known to be a huge contributing factor to climate change. The EU aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in 2030 compared to 1990 as part of its climate policy. Moreover, the European Investment Bank, an investor in the corridor, has committed to fighting climate change. Yet, the project facilitates using gas as a source of energy, instead of looking at environmentally-friendly alternatives.

In addition, many NGOs and watchdog organizations have criticized the project as it contributes financially to Azerbaijan’s government. The Azerbaijani government is regularly condemned for its repressive treatment of journalists and activists, as well as its corruption. In 2015, the International Federation for Human Rights wrote: “for more than a decade, Azerbaijan has made shameless use of caviar diplomacy to charm European governments, its more important oil and gas clients.”

The construction of the pipeline has been met with protests in some countries. In Italy, environmentalists protested TAP due to its environmental impact. In March 2017, more than 300 protestors blocked a construction site to prevent trucks from entering. Over 60 olive trees have been removed from historical olive groves due to TAP construction works.

The Southern Gas Corridor is expected to have an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas, enough to provide energy to around 7 million European households. In the future, the European Commission hopes to increase this to 80 to 100 billion cubic meters. It is expected to begin operating in 2020.

By Amy Jones

21 January 2019 16:45