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Azerbaijan to proceed with gas pipeline extension, despite war

BAKU, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Azerbaijan will press ahead with plans to feed natural gas into an extended pipeline network to southern Europe, a senior official said, even as conflict rages for a sixth week in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Elshad Nassirov, vice-president of Azeri national energy company SOCAR, told Reuters the $5 billion extension of the Southern Gas Corridor network would be ready this month to take up to 10 billion cubic metres a year from the Shah Deniz field.

“In just two weeks, a new piece of infrastructure will be ready,” Nassirov said, referring to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.

Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, has raised concerns about the security of oil and gas pipelines in Azerbaijan.

BP, which leads the international consortium developing Shah Deniz, said last month it was looking to beef up security at its facilities in Azerbaijan after reports of attacks on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

Armenia denied at the time that it had targeted pipelines.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, is far from Azerbaijan, stretching 878 km (546 miles) from Turkey’s border with Greece across the mountains of Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

Its operation, however, will require Azerbaijan to pump additional volumes into the system from its massive Shah Deniz project in the Caspian Sea.

Shah Deniz is expected to reach peak output in 2023, around the time that TAP would also hit full capacity.

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