ATHENS, Greece, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Greek officials have reaffirmed support of the Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline, calling it the most mature of three competing plans to cross the country.
A statement released Friday by the Greek ministries of foreign affairs and energy voiced strong support for Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy, which, if fully realized, would transport up to 11 billion cubic meters of mostly Azeri gas to southern Europe, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
It is backed by Italian energy giant Edison S.p.A. and Greece's state-owned gas utility DEPA.
"The Greek government steadily and consistently supports the plan to complete the ITGI pipeline," the official statement said. "We believe that the project in question will contribute decisively to the given European need to diversify energy sources and routes, while it is undoubtedly the most advanced plan in terms of studies and permits."
ITGI is one of three gas pipeline proposals routed through Greece that seek to supply Europe with gas culled from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II fields in the Caspian Sea.
Its competitors using a Greek segment include Russian's South Stream proposal and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline from Switzerland's EGL Group, Norway's Statoil and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas.
ITGI is also competing against the Nabucco proposal (through Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania) in a bid to supply European customers with an alternative to Russian natural gas.
Greece is hoping to land significant amounts of much-needed economic development through the building of a "Southern Corridor" pipeline connecting Europe to Azerbaijan, and last week's statement indicated that Athens believes the ITGI line "secures greater investments within Greece."
The Greek ministries said the others are still being "monitored" and "evaluated" with interest but noted neither of those proposals had matured sufficiently for specific agreements to be signed, ANSA reported.
The ITGI proposal includes two parts. The 370-mile overland Interconnector Greece-Italy pipeline would stretch to the Ionian Sea, where a 125-mile, undersea pipe – known as the IGI Poseidon -- would connect western Greece to Italy's Salento Peninsula.
Athens' reaffirmation to the ITGI pipeline came as a Greek non-governmental organization also identified it the most advanced gas project of the three.
The Institute of Energy for Southeast Europe said Monday its team of "20 independent scientists and business executives" had determined the pipeline was "the most mature pipeline project of the South Corridor in terms of licensing and financing."
The group said it used "15 specific criteria including economic viability, the degree of preparedness of each pipeline in terms of implementation, as well as the added value for Greece" in reaching its conclusions.
Russia's South Stream, it said, provided little opportunity to diversify the gas stream to Central and Eastern Europe, a major requirement for backing by the European Union, and also lacked "substantial information regarding the progress of the realization of the project."
TAP, meanwhile, is comparable to ITGI in terms of Greek employment in the construction phase but Greece is only a transit country for the project, whereas ITGI would involve "substantial investments" in western Greece both during construction and later during operations.
Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov has also identified ITGI as the most advanced Southern Corridor pipeline project. But he told The Wall Street Journal in December its status was being hurt by financial crises in Greece and Italy, raising concerns about future natural gas demand in those countries.
Edison S.p.A. is beset by corporate instability due to a battle for control between its Italian and French shareholders, while Greece is seeking to spin off DEPA into a private company to raise cash, the newspaper noted.