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6 May, 2009 23:07

Prague spring meeting to give Nabucco gas pipeline new life

Europe is about to hold more talks this week over the diversification of gas transit routes - this time in Prague - with the Nabucco pipeline project again the main topic on the agenda.

The quest continues for an agreement on a southern route for delivering gas to Europe. Another gas summit in Prague, on May 8, aims to break the deadlock. The 2 day meeting will see the EU troika – the Czech Presidency, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council – meet potential major suppliers, including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and possible transit nations – Turkey and Georgia.

The EU countries are still to decide which projects should constitute the Southern Gas Corridor. The proposed Nabucco pipeline would carry Turkmen and Azeri gas to Southern Europe – bypassing Russia . Platts Energy Security Specialist, John Roberts, says outcomes on 2 key issues could see Nabucco become reality.

“What you really have with Nabucco is very serious negotiation on two issues – the specific supply and input and transit through Turkey. If its resolved – Nabucco up and running.”

However one of the key suppliers – Azerbaijan is still undecided where to sell its gas – To Nabucco or Russia, supporting the alternative pipeline South Stream – which goes from Russia under the Black sea to Bulgaria. Azerbaijan Industry and Energy Minister, Natik Aliyev says Nabucco has too many unknowns, and is looking for more certainty.

“There are no details about the commercial conditions for Nabucco. It's like a formula with too many unknowns. I'm talking about the price of transit and the price of gas. There are also no standard conditions. For us all the projects are interesting, including the Russian project.”

And with the Ukrainian-Russian gas transit dispute in January still fresh in people's minds, any decision is likely to be hotly debated.