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EU looks beyond borders for energy

Infrastructure concerns extend to border of Russia to U.S. shale basins.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BRUSSELS, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Some of the key pillars to strengthening energy security in the European Union lie beyond the bloc's borders, a European energy official said from Brussels.

The European economies depend heavily on imports of oil and natural gas from Russia, Norway and elsewhere. Strains on production brought on by lower crude oil prices, and geopolitical conflicts along the border with Russia, have presented risks to European energy sources.

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Maros Sefcovic, a European leader on energy issues, told delegates gathered at an energy infrastructure forum in Brussels many of the regional energy concerns may have solutions outside of Europe.

"Of course being the largest energy importer in the world, our stake in infrastructure does not end at our own borders," he said.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline consortium is in the process of awarding contracts for construction of the planned gas artery through southern Europe.

TAP is slated to transport natural gas from the second phase of the Shah Deniz natural gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan as early as 2019. TAP would connect to the Trans-Anatolian natural gas project running through Turkey to the Greek border.

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"We are very much concerned by the infrastructure which leads into the EU," Sefcovic said.

At the same time, Sefcovic said the European community was examining new strategies for bringing liquefied natural gas to the European market.

For U.S. allies in Europe, the abundance of natural gas from U.S. shale basins could be used as a tool to break the Russian grip on the European economy. The European market gets about 20 percent of its gas needs met by Russia, though most of that supply runs through a Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine, where lingering political and national security issues present risks to European energy security.

Miguel Arias Canete, the European commissioner for energy, said earlier this year LNG may present a source of diversity with the right infrastructure in place. Sefcovic said there would be a growing "focus on the necessary transport infrastructure linking LNG access points with the internal market."

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