The problems emerged on the way of Nabucco gas bridge don’t make the West stop efforts to go on with energy routes that would be alternative to Russian pipelines. For instance, the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), a project supported by Turkey and the EU, is an example of trying to do their best to direct natural gas from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to the West circumventing Russia.
As the autumn set in a number of high-level government teams visited Turkmenistan. On September 3 president of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow met Taner Yıldız, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. Energy cooperation topped the agenda. President Berdimuhammedow noted his country was rich in oil and gas and paid interest in building new pipelines going to Europe. Taner Yıldız said Turkey was ready to render any support to bring such projects into life. The very same day the President of Turkmenistan held talks with a delegation of the European Union led by the acting director of the General Department of Energy Jean-Arnold Vinois. By and large they discussed the same agenda: creating reliable and solid legal ground for energy cooperation and diversification of gas export routes going from Turkmenistan. Turkey and the EU try to revive the Nabucco project in a different form. The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline has become a new project to take the Nabucco’s place. The agreement to build it was signed by Turkey and Azerbaijan in Istanbul on June 26. The estimated cost is $7 billion. The pipeline line is to go from Azerbaijan to the Turkish borders with Bulgaria and Greece. The planned capacity would be 16 billion cubic metres (570 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year: 6 to Turkey and 10 to Europe. If constructed, it would transport gas from the Azeri Shah Deniz-2 gas field. It’s obviously not enough to compete with Gazprom, so, reportedly, the capacity may go up to 60 billion cubic metres in future. It exactly matches the planned capacity of Russia’s South Stream that, unlike Nabucco, faces no difficulties related to funds or resource base. Taner Yıldız said: "With the TANAP project we have created a structure that will allow gas to transit across Azerbaijan and facilitate trade. ...” He said gas deliveries from Turkmenistan was the goal.
At present the project is designed for deliveries from the Azeri Shah Deniz Stage 2 gas-condensate field only. The Nabucco’s capacity was to be around 30 cubic metres a year. Azerbaijan had resources enough to provide for the half of it. The other half was to come from Turkmenistan considered to be the second resource base for Nabucco. Russia has bought four times less of Turkmen gas since 2010, so Ashgabat would greet the emergence of one more export route. A pipeline at the bottom of Caspian Sea is a requirement. The construction is hindered by difficulties involved in establishing the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Being a lake it’s not covered by international sea law. The EU recent strategy has been focused on building a pipeline between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan ignoring the objections raised by other Caspian states, first of all Russia and Iran. Neither Brussels nor Ashgabat dared to take the first step.
Unlike Nabucco TANAP is more flexible. In case there would be no access to Turkmenian gas, the investors would be satisfied with the gas coming from Azerbaijan and the capacity would stay at 16 cubic metres a year. The Azeri gas supplies could somewhat be increased as time goes by. According to local BP officer estimates, the potential supplies to Europe could go up to 24 cubic metres by 2020. In this case the program minimum would be implemented: the Azeri gas would go to the EU through Turkey (not Russia) and the foreign policy of South Caucasian states would become more pro-Western. If the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline is built, the capacity could be increased. The projected capacity of 60 cubic metres makes one stop and think. Initially Turkmenistan guaranteed to fill the half of Nabucco’s capacity, that is around 15 cubic metres a year. That’s what is unclear in principle: either the export capacities of Ashgabat and Baku are to suddenly substantially increase exceeding what has been declared so far or the TANAP designers count on other gas sources. Isn’t it Iran that is considered to become a resource base as a result of an operation aimed at “changing the regime”?
Today the Iran’s stance is a major hindrance in the way of Trans-Caspian pipeline project. Teheran insists the Caspian should be divided into five equal parts while other states stand for the division into national sectors along the shore lines. Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan divided the sea bottom among themselves according to this principle. The sea bottom is not divided in the southern part of the Caspian because of Iran’s disagreement with the option. That’s what makes the Trans - Caspian pipeline construction problematic: which territory is it going to cross when there are no commonly recognized sea borders in this part of the sea? Getting Iran out of play makes the solution much simpler.
There is one more hitch in the way of Trans-Caspian pipeline – the disagreement between Baku and Ashgabat over the sea border. The Kyapaz (Serdar in Turkmenian) deposit is at the root of dispute. The estimated oil and gas condensate is 150 million barrels. The both states stick to the principle of border line in the middle of the Sea. However, Azerbaijan proposes the equal distance from extreme points of coastal line while Turkmenistan stand for the principle of delimitation based on the middle of geographic latitudes. The latter makes the Kyapaz a part of Turkmenian territory, the Azeri deposit becomes situated on the border line; its development has already been started by Baku. The proposal to develop the Kyapaz together put forward by Azerbaijan was not accepted by Ashgabat. In 2008 the presidents of both countries agreed to make no moves to develop the disputable field. But in June 2012 a diplomatic scandal flared between the two – Azerbaijan launched a protest against starting seismic work by Turkmenian research vessel. Turkey is trying to settle the issue doing its best to narrow the gap between the stances. It’s not known if the efforts applied by Ankara have produced any result.
The stakes are high in the big game around the Caspian hydrocarbons. The main goal of the West is to separate the countries of South Caucasus and Central Asia from Russia, to avoid the integration of post-Soviet states within the framework of common economic space, to make the energy routes bypass the territory of the Russian Federation. Supposedly, as a result, the geopolitical former Soviet Union space would acquire a new shape described in the concepts of New Silk Road and Greater Middle East…