US support for Caspian gas to Europe project crucial – Azerbaijan

Pump jacks on an oilfield in Baku, Azerbaijan© David Mdzinarishvili
The Southern Gas Corridor project aimed at delivering Azerbaijan’s natural gas to Europe wouldn’t have advanced without strong US backing, according to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.

“We are very grateful to the government of United States for its strong support in implementing this project,” said Aliyev during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the White House.

Aliyev added that it would have needed more time and effort to get the project going without US support.

Azerbaijan is rich in natural gas and is seen as an alternative European supplier in an energy sector dominated by Russia. It could boost energy efficiency and security.

Several arteries dubbed the Southern Gas Corridor aim to deliver Azeri natural gas from the Shah Deniz basin in the Caspian Sea.

Last month US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein discussed the project with regional energy ministers and representatives from the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan during a visit to Baku. Hochstein stressed that the project is a “long-standing” priority for the US government.

“This is a very important step with respect to Europe's long-term strategic interests, and frankly, to try to diversify the sourcing of energy, which is important,” confirmed the US Secretary of State.

The Southern Gas Corridor to enable Central Asian countries to export gas to Europe was proposed in 2008. The pipelines intend to connect southeastern Europe with the Caspian region and potentially the Middle East.

The cost of the project is estimated at $45 billion with Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Iran attracted as partners.

The first gas supplies are expected to reach Turkey next year with gas delivered to Europe in 2019.

Europe renewed its interest in the project to reduce dependence on Russia as its key gas supplier and Ukraine as the main transit country after Russia suspended the $50 billion South Stream gas pipeline.