ASHGABAT, March 25 (Reuters) - The European Union is seeking to revive a gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Europe and involve European energy companies, an EU diplomat in Turkmenistan said.
The Crimea crisis has added urgency to the EU’s search for gas from sources other than Russia, which supplies around a third of Europe’s gas needs.
Denis Daniilidis told Reuters that Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s head of energy union, was going to visit Turkmenistan in coming months to restart talks about the TransCaspian pipeline.
The project, which is meant to bring gas from Turkmenistan to Europe across the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and Turkey, has been stuck for years due to political, ecological and financial uncertainties.
“In the course of talks with our Turkmen partners, we came to the point when we had to figure out how we would structure the involvement of EU companies willing to buy Turkmen gas for the European market,” he said.
While he did not provide other details, Turkmen officials said earlier this month that “active” negotiations were under way to supply Europe with between 10 and 30 billion cubic metres of gas per year.
Last year, Turkmenistan and Turkey signed a framework agreement to supply gas to the proposed Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline project (TANAP), which will offtake gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian Sea.
To connect to TANAP, Turkmenistan needs to build its own link under the Caspian Sea, a disputed area between Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan.
TANAP will be built from the Turkish-Georgian border to Turkey’s frontier with Bulgaria and Greece. Its construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 in order to start deliveries of gas from Shah Deniz II in 2019.
Russia’s Gazprom has drastically cut Turkmenistan gas imports over the last couple of years, with the latter now exporting around 30-35 billion cubic metres of gas to China annually - the figure set to double by 2020. Gazprom plans to start gas supplies to China close to the end of this decade.
Turkmenistan also sells small amounts of natural gas to neighbouring Iran. (Writing by Katya Golubkova, editing by William Hardy)