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TAP Venture Open to Greek, Italian Partners, Scoufias Says

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) venture would welcome Greek and Italian partners after a Greco-Italian pipeline was ruled out as an option for transporting Caspian Sea gas to Europe, Rikard Scoufias, TAP Country Manager for Greece said.

“We’re open to discussing new partnerships at a shareholder level and looking at our host countries, we’d welcome a Greek and/or Italian partner,” Scoufias said in an interview in Athens yesterday. The planned pipeline will cross Greece from its border with Turkey to Italy via Albania.

A group led by BP Plc, which is developing the second phase of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field, will choose between the Nabucco project and the South-East Europe Pipeline, or SEEP, by the middle of this year. The winner will then compete with TAP for rights to export Shah Deniz gas with a decision due by mid-2013.

The group, which also includes State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, Statoil ASA, Total SA, OAO Lukoil, Naftiran Intertrade and Turkiye Petrolleri AO, ruled out Feb. 20 using Interconnector Turkey Greece Italy to carry Azeri gas.

ITGI, which would also cross Greece, is a venture of Greek natural gas supplier Depa SA and Italy’s Edison Spa. Greece and Italy still consider the project to be “strategically important”, Greek Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou said in a Feb. 29 interview.

Decision Maker

“The Shah Deniz consortium is the decision maker, they’ve made a decision and they’ve continuously emphasized that it’s unanimous and final,” Scoufias said.

“Most of TAP runs across Greece and ensuring that the export market goes through the country will put it at the epicenter of European energy policy as unlocking the so-called Southern Corridor route is a key component of the European Union strategy for the security and diversification of energy,” he said.

TAP would also bring Greece 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) in foreign direct investment and create 2,000 direct jobs while the participation of TAP’s shareholders, Switzerland’s EGL AG, Norway’s Statoil and Germany’s EON Ruhrgas AG, sends a strong message abroad as to the confidence they have for investing in Greece, he said.

Because the Shah Deniz group decided in favor of TAP over ITGI, “the Greek government must immediately embrace the project and facilitate its completion at the earliest possible time under the best possible conditions for Greek interests,” Thanos Dokos and Theodoros Tsakiris of the Athens-based Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy said in a report earlier this month.

If the consortium’s final choice is the TAP option, the venture should also ensure that it makes gas available to markets in the Balkans, Richard Morningstar, U.S. special envoy for Eurasian energy issues, said in Athens on March 28.

Designed to Expand

While TAP will have an initial transportation capacity of 10 billion cubic meters a year for bringing Azeri gas to Italy, the project is designed to be able to expand to 20 billion a year as gas becomes available from in Cyprus, Israel, Iraq and Turkmenistan, Scoufias said.

TAP has signed cooperation agreements with Plinarco Ltd. and BH-Gas to gather support for the planned Ionian Adriatic Pipeline that would link with TAP in Albania and then deliver gas to Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, he said.

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