Monday, July 22, 2013

Still a Future for Nabucco?

The vote is in, and the Shah Deniz 2 Consortium has chosen to link the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) instead of Nabucco West.  Natural gas flowing from the Shah Deniz 2 field will feed the industries of Greece and Italy, instead of Austria and Central Europe.  Conventional wisdom is that the Nabucco project is dead.  "The Nabucco project is over for us," said Gerhard Roiss, CEO of OMV, the Austrian leader of the Nabucco consortium.

The funeral oration may be premature, however.  Nabucco has not disbanded.  Upon learning of its loss of the Shah Deniz 2 gas, Nabucco announced it was continuing to look for new sources for its project, justifying its continuation on the European energy market's need for diversification.  "We remain convinced that the Nabucco route offers the only possibility to answer these needs," the company said.  "Nabucco is confident of developing opportunities based on alternative gas sources."  Construction of the long-debated Trans Caspian Pipeline would bring gas toward Europe in quantities that far exceed TAP's projected initial capacity of 6 bcm per year.

One of the major members of the Shah Deniz 2 consortium, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), also has held out hope for a future Nabucco role.  Rovnag Abdullayev, president of SOCAR, noted that Shah Deniz 2 is not the only offshore gas field the company is developing.  As additional fields come on line, such as ACG Deep, Absheron, Umid and Shafag-Asiman, "We clearly see the Nabucco pipeline corridor as the natural market for our future volumes of gas...We expect that the ability of the southern corridor to bring new sources of supply to European markets will extend beyond the immediate areas transited by TAP."

The European Commission has also not totally abandoned its favorite pipeline project.  Despite statements welcoming the choice of TAP, the commission issued a statement holding out a lifeline to Nabucco.  "In principle, gas from the Caspian Sea could be delivered to the EU both to Baumgarten/Vienna (Nabucco West) or to Italy (TAP)," it said.

An open question remains:  will Europe need all this pipeline gas?  With TANAP/TAP poised to bring gas from the Caspian, North and South Stream scheduled to export Russian gas, the development of shale gas, LNG coming from may be that Nabucco's future will be hostage to the pending glut in natural gas supplies.