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Turkey: Gas flows from Azerbaijan resume

  |   Feb. 10, 2012 at 6:29 AM
ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A technical glitch that all but halted natural gas flows from Azerbaijan and Iran into Turkey this week has been fixed, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz says.

Yildiz said Wednesday that equipment problems that resulted in drastically reduced flows Tuesday have been identified and the supplies would be brought up to normal, the Anatolia News Agency reported.

Greece has also been affected as Turkey withholds Azerbaijani fuel destined for that country so it can serve its own increased needs -- all of which comes as Turkey and Greece shiver through some of most severe cold weather in decades.

"The flow of Azeri gas to Turkey is to be increased gradually," Yildiz said at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.

Gas flows into Turkey fell from normal levels of 40 million to 6 million cubic meters per day Tuesday, triggering widespread concerns consumers would be affected.

But Yildiz said that wouldn't be the case as officials in both Azerbaijan and Iran worked in "a great effort" to solve the problem, assuring there would be no shortage in natural gas supplies for Turkish homes or industry.

The energy minister said cold weather was hampering efforts to fix technical problems in the two gas-producing countries, comparing it to the interruptions in electricity and gas supplies throughout Europe during a wave of Arctic temperatures that has claimed hundreds of lives across the continent.

Yildiz said one of the five units at Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field in the Caspian Sea had been restored by early Wednesday with the others soon to follow, Today's Zaman reported.

There were also problems in Iran, where failures at compressor stations that pressurize the natural gas along the pipeline were affecting flows. Those glitches were expected to be fixed this week.

The newspaper said Yildiz also forcefully denied conjecture the gas interruption was intentional.

"These are unfair to our Azeri and Iranian counterparts and negatively affect our relationship with them," he said. "We don't believe the reduction of the flow of natural gas is intentional."

Meanwhile, Greece was also affected -- the second time this month it saw gas flows from Turkey reduced. As the only European country without a connection to the European grid, it is subject to disruptions that affect its neighbor.

Last week Athens resorted to buying an extra load of liquefied natural gas for delivery at the islet of Revythousa in the Gulf of Megara to satisfy record daily demand of 20.3 million cubic meters during the cold wave, Kathimerini reported.

The state-owned gas utility DEPA had been coping with demand by importing additional supplies from Russia's Gazprom but was told by the Russian company it wouldn't be able to meet the extra quantities due to technical problems of its own.

The gas shortages in Greece point to the need for a new "Southern Corridor" pipeline connecting the country with abundant Caspian Sea gas supplies, asserted Harry Sachinis, chairman and chief executive of DEPA.

The state-owned company has worked with Italy's Edison SpA on the proposed $2.5 billion ITGI (Turkey-Greece-Italy) pipeline project.

"The current shortages on gas deliveries are not happening for the first time," he said.

"The ITGI project would avoid these disruptions. Moreover, the ITGI project allows for what is known as reverse gas flow -- the possibility for reversing the flux of gas, thus allowing for gas from North Africa to flow to Italy and from there to southeastern Europe."

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