Re-Energizing Nabucco

Via Stratfor (subscription required), an analysis of the recent summit in Hungary for officials from countries interested in, or part of, the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project including Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Romania and Turkey. As the article notes:

“…Nabucco is a planned 2,000 mile pipeline between Turkey and Austria to transport 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Southern and Central Europe. The pipeline consortium is made up of Austria’s OMV, Hungary’s MOL, Romania’s Transgaz, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, Turkey’s Botas and Germany’s RWE.

Though it began in 2002, it has yet to get off the ground. But since Russia cut natural gas supplies to EuropeEuropeans have been scrambling for alternative energy sources. Now, the Nabucco consortium has called on the European Union to throw its weight behind the project. Even if the EU signs up, however, many roadblocks to the project lie ahead. once again during a dispute with Ukraine in early January, the

MAP: Nabucco Pipeline's possible route

The consortium has been unable to agree on much from, the pipeline’s route to how to finance it. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has now called on the European Union to invest at least $396 million in the project if it is to succeed. He argued that if Brussels invests, then others will jump in to help finance the nearly $10 billion pipeline. Gyurcsany hopes that with both EU political and financial support, everything else will fall into place. But even assuming EU support is forthcoming, numerous challenges still remain.

For one thing, a source for the large amount of natural gas needed to fill the line has not yet been determined. There are quite a few options, but each has its own problems. These include:

  • Azerbaijan. The second stage of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz natural gas field is supposed to come on line in 2013, though it will only produce 8 bcm, a little more than half what Nabucco needs.
  • Trans-Caspian countries. Like Nabucco, the Trans-Caspian pipeline — a submarine pipeline under the Caspian Sea from either Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan — also has yet to get off the ground. Both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have ample supplies to fill Nabucco. But the Trans-Caspian pipeline project has been stalled indefinitely. Moreover, both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan seem to be turning away from the project under pressure from Moscow.
  • Iran. Tehran also has offered to supply Nabucco, but U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran have put this option off limits — at least until the West and Iran reach an understanding.
  • Other Middle Eastern countries. Numerous proposals from other suppliers in the Middle East, like Egypt and Iraq, have been made. This would also require much more infrastructure just to reach Nabucco, however, along with much political wrangling in the case of Iraq.

Turkey might create another roadblock. Up until now, Ankara always has been on board with European pipeline projects. Turkey is the cornerstone to many European diversification plans, as energy from the Caucasus, Central Asia or the Middle East bound for Europe would need to cross its territory. During a Jan. 19 visit to Brussels, however, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan linked Turkey’s role in Nabucco to Turkish membership in the European Union, something that has remained stalled for decades. If Brussels does not give Turkey what it wants and Ankara sticks to this stance and ultimately pulls out of Nabucco, the pipeline project would die. But Turkey is also looking to diversify away from its dependence on Russian natural gas, meaning Turkey probably would be loath to kill Nabucco out of pique over its unfulfilled EU membership dreams.

Finally, Russian meddling could prevent Nabucco from proceeding. Moscow has deep ties into many of the countries — like Bulgaria and Serbia, and to a lesser extent Austria and Hungary— that Nabucco either would transit or that belong to the pipeline consortium. In fact, Moscow prides itself on being able to sway those governments when needed. Russia may have dashed this possibility last January, however, when it plunged these countries into crisis with its most recent natural gas cutoff, which hit Southern and Central Europe the hardest. These countries may have felt beholden to Russian pressure in the past, but it is hard to be willing to do Moscow’s bidding when Russia is turning off your heating.”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 at 6:16 pm and is filed under Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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