It’s been a slow couple of weeks in Azerbaijan in preparation for Novruz, the traditional New Year’s festival (which means next week will be even slower, as all workers are given 5 days off for next week’s festivities). But of course, there’s always something to talk about in Azerbaijan – the oil.
BP, the world’s preferred destroyer of ocean gulfs everywhere and primary shareholder of the Shah Deniz gas field, came to terms with a consortium of fellow gas-mongers to acquire a 13% share of the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline. The finished Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, commonly known as TANAP, is the heart of the proposed Southern Gas Corridor. Once finished, TANAP will connect the Baku–Tbilisi–Erzurum Pipeline to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline terminus in Italy. It’s a very strategic gain for Azerbaijan; gas from Shah Deniz will flow freely to Western Europe, and Turkey’s significance as a leader in gas transport will be solidified (and could lead to EU membership).
As you might recall in my earlier coverage of the Southern Gas Corridor, a certain neighbor has been left out of Europe’s grand plans: Russia. The proposed pipelines bypass Russia and many of its Caspian allies completely, weakening its role as Western Europe’s only gas supplier. With the news of BP’s support for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, the competing Nabucco West Pipeline project – as well as Russia’s proposed connection via the South Stream Pipeline across the Black Sea – is no more.
Not being one to wallow in vodka and unsalable oil, Putin boldly proclaimed plans for a new “Turkish Stream” pipeline at the end of 2014 (which was, of course, before the Russian economy really tanked). The Turkish Stream looks suspiciously like the South Stream pipeline, although the newly proposed pipeline would end somewhere in west Turkey and boast an impressive capacity of 63 billion cubic meters per year (for reference, TANAP will export 10 billion cubic meters annually). It should be noted that this capacity far outstrips the demand for gas, leaving the curious question of why Russia would build an unnecessarily elaborate pipeline. Alas, all anyone can do is speculate in the meantime, as there are no sketches, plans, or diplomatic agreements between Turkey and Russia to even consider the pipeline.
Despite the EU’s desire to distance themselves from the increasingly unstable Russia, capitalistic desires for cheap gas always wins out in the end. Brendan Devlin, the advisor to the European Commission’s Directorate-General on Energy, spoke recently on the collapse of the South Stream project. While emphasizing that Azerbaijan and TAP would have priority in finding European clients, he didn’t count Russia out quite yet – or really at all.
“It doesn’t matter who the shipper is, and we don’t care if it is Russian gas, Libyan gas and Azerbaijani gas. The internal market works like that. It’s the rules that we have set up for Russia, or for Gazprom. And as we require them to implement those rules, they are free and welcome to use pipelines in the European Union on the same basis.”
He also subtly reminded those in attendance of the 50% TAP expansion clause that can be invoked if another gas supplier joins the pipeline.
And there you have it, folks. Capitalism: 1, honest business: 0.
In a disturbing turn of events, the National Hydrometeorology Department of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources has revised their weather outlook for the week of March 15th, citing the potential for snow and sleet in the mountainous north. Expect average temperatures to drop by 4 to 6 degrees Celsius.
Following last week’s solar flare on March 11th, expect solar “explosions” to cause “weak magnetic perturbations across Earth” for the next few days. And no, this is not a joke.
The President of Azerbaijan was present for the grand opening of a “facility” in Barda. To the author’s disappointment, the facility is neither psychiatric nor detentionary in nature. The president also planted a tree. You can hear more about the facility and thinly-veiled president worship here.
Once again, relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia are tense – but a third player has entered the mix on the side of Azerbaijan (or are they)? I’ll be keeping an eye on Azeri-Pakistani relations in the coming weeks.