Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Moment of truth for EU gas pipeline

  • The opera tells the story of King Nabucco's (or Nebuchadnezzar's) persecution of Jews in Biblical times (Photo: A M)

The EU-endorsed Nabucco pipeline project is shrinking and might vanish by the end of June.

When executives from five energy firms - Botas, Bulgargaz, Mol, OMV and Transgaz - ate dinner in Vienna in October 2002 after watching the Verdi opera Nabucco, they envisaged a 3,900-km-long pipeline that would bring 31 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year of Azerbaijani, Iraqi and Turkmen gas from the Georgian-Turkish border to Austria.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In strategic terms, the project was designed to end Russia's monopoly on Caspian Sea gas imports and to weaken its political influence in central and eastern Europe.

Ten years later, it has shrunk and it has a new name: Nabucco West. The old concept is being called Nabucco Classic.

Nabucco West is to be a 1,300-km-long pipeline that will bring 10 bcm of Azerbaijani gas from the Bulgarian-Turkish border to Austria from 2017.

It is competing with two other options: the Tap pipeline to ship the gas from Turkey to Italy and the Seep pipeline to ship it from Turkey to Austria.

The companies which operate Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas field - which will supply the winning pipeline - are to decide by the end of June whether Nabucco West or Seep go through to a final round of competition against Tap.

The main shareholder in the Shah Deniz consortium, BP, is also the main firm behind Seep.

BP's chief of refining and marketing, Iain Conn, in a speech in Berlin on Thursday (24 May) said the selection will be made on "transparent criteria" and that "there is no pre-determined winner, the competition is fully open."

He added that Seep "offers an efficient routing into and through these strategically important markets" in south-east Europe. He did not say anything nice about Nabucco.

A BP spokesman, Toby Odone, told EUobserver on Friday that in any case Nabucco Classic is dead.

"To all intents and purposes it isn't going to happen. It's just not in the frame ... When Nabucco was first planned it talked about multiple sources [Turkmenistan, Iran] coming together. That just hasn't happened. All those agreements haven't come through," he said.

The Nabucco consortium and the European Commission say it is still alive.

"We are confident that Nabucco West will win the bid, and then I still think, that the original Nabucco concept will be discussed again," Leonhard Birnbaum, a board member of one of the Nabucco consortium companies, Germany's RWE, said on Thursday.

Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner told press on Friday: "To our understanding, the Nabucco Classic version is still on the table."

She noted that in strategic terms it does not matter whether Tap, Seep or Nabucco win, so long as the EU gets direct access to Caspian gas and the 10 bcm capacity can be increased in future.

In technical terms, if the wall of a gas pipeline is thick enough then more gas can be pumped through it under a higher pressure. If all the inter-governmental agreements are in place to lay one pipe, then it is easy to lay a second one along the same route.

"For the EU, it does not matter what the name of the pipeline is, but that the 'content is Nabucco'," Holzner said.

EU banks throw their weight behind Nabucco pipeline

The EU's Nabucco gas pipeline received a boost on Monday as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank made a first written commitment that may lend the project up to €4 billion, half of its total cost.

Russia frets over EU plans to link up Caspian gas fields

Moscow expressed its "disappointment" on Tuesday over EU plans to build a Trans-Caspian pipeline connecting large Turkmen gas reserves to Azerbaijan, offering an alternative to the Russian monopoly on gas transports from that region.

Eurozone chief in 'drinks and women' row

[Updated] The Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem faces calls for resignation after saying that crisis-hit countries in southern Europe spent "money on drinks and women" before being helped by others.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

News in Brief

  1. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst

Latest News

  1. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  2. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  3. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum
  4. La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale
  5. EU doing well in global energy ranking
  6. Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'
  7. French socialist woos Europe with new vision
  8. EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'