SOCAR touts TANAP at Westminster meeting

LONDON, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- The president of Azerbaijan's state energy company SOCAR says it is ready to move ahead with a trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline after parliamentary approval.

SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev, meeting Friday in London with British government officials, said a Wednesday vote by the Azerbaijani Parliament to approve the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project with Turkey opens the door for more potential energy and other kinds of investments by Britain.


Abdullayev, addressing British peers, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change John Hayes and others at Westminster, called for deepening ties between the countries as TANAP -- expected to be completed in 2018 -- emerges as a key route for future European gas supplies.

A SOCAR statement said Abdullayev touted Azerbaijan as one of the main oil- and gas-producing countries in the world economy, which will be vital in the future to "guarantee" Europe's energy security.


The main topic in that regard was TANAP, in which SOCAR owns an 80 percent share, along with Turkish-state owned minority partners. Azerbaijan's Milli Majlis ratified an intergovernmental agreement between the two countries on the pipeline Wednesday, reported.

TANAP is designed to carry natural gas from the BP-controlled Shah Deniz field in the Azeri waters of the Caspian Sea through Turkish territory. It's designed to deliver as much as 350 billion cubic feet of natural gas for European consumers per year.

The project would cross through Turkish territory to the European border before it connects to either the Nabucco West or Trans-Adriatic gas pipelines -- part of an effort by the European Union to reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies.

Project partners expect to have TANAP built before Shah Deniz starts production by 2017. First exports from the second phase of the Shah Deniz field are expected by 2018.

SOCAR in September offered to sell a 29 percent stake in the TANAP pipeline to potential partners like BP, Norwegian energy company Statoil and French major Total.

Abdullayev gave a wide-ranging interview to The Wall Street Journal after the House of Lords event, in which he said SOCAR didn't see the proposed Russian-backed South Stream pipeline to Europe as competition for TANAP.


"We see South Stream and Tanap as complimentary, not competition," he said, noting that continually rising demand for gas in Turkey, Europe and elsewhere is making it possible for both projects to survive.

Abdullayev also had praise for Conservative Party House of Lords member Mohamed Iltaf Sheikh, one of the chief backers of deepening Britain's relations with Azerbaijan.

During a Nov. 6 House of Lords debate, Sheikh noted British companies -- led by BP -- invested nearly $1.6 billion in Azerbaijan in 2010.

"Azerbaijan has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and there are a number of sectors within which it is looking to expand, including finance, telecommunications and infrastructure," he said. "Other European countries have recently secured a number of high-profile contracts in technology and construction.

"We must harness our current relationship with Azerbaijan to increase our trade with it before more countries beat us to it."

A dissenting note was sounded by House of Lords Member Caroline Cox, who said Azerbaijan's continuing conflict with Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has made the 1994 cease-fire between them "precarious."

"Azerbaijan's continuing hostile policies are detrimental to attempts to reach a solution to this semi-frozen conflict," Cox said.


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