PARIS, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Two European energy companies announced they signed contracts to secure natural gas from the Shah Deniz field off Azerbaijan for 25 years.
French company GDF Suez said it secured nearly 92 billion cubic feet of natural gas from the Shah Deniz phase 2 project in the Azeri waters of the Caspian Sea. The second phase of the field is controlled by a consortium managed by BP.
GDF Suez said the first gas is expected by 2019 at the earliest.
"Azerbaijan is setting itself up as a new supplier of European gas markets," GDF President Jean-Francois Cirelli said in a statement Thursday. "Furthermore, as a buyer, GDF Suez contributes to enabling the implementation of the new Southern Corridor for gas, called for by the industry and European Union authorities."
The Southern Corridor of pipeline projects is designed to add diversity to a European natural gas market dependent on Russia.
German energy company E.ON said Thursday it signed a deal to secure 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas from the Shan Deniz consortium.
E.ON holds a 9 percent stake in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. BP in June picked the pipeline to carry Shah Deniz gas from there to European consumers. Developers last week started land easement and acquisition activities for the 540-mile pipeline system through Albania, Greece and Italy.