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Russia scraps Southern Europe gas project

Reuters Ankara | Updated on December 02, 2014 Published on December 02, 2014

Turkey is preferred partner for alternative pipeline; Putin offers hefty discounts



Russia on Monday scrapped the South Stream pipeline project to supply gas to southern Europe without crossing Ukraine, citing EU objections, and instead named Turkey as its preferred partner for an alternative pipeline, with a promise of hefty discounts.

The EU, at loggerheads with Moscow over Ukraine, and keen to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, had objected to the $40 billion South Stream pipeline, which was to enter the EU via Bulgaria, on competition grounds.

The proposed undersea pipeline to Turkey, with an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic metres (bcm), more than four times Turkey’s annual purchases from Russia, would face no such problems. Russia offered to combine it with a gas hub at the EU’s south-eastern edge, the Turkish-Greek border, to supply southern Europe. Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Russia’s state-controlled gas exporter Gazprom, told reporters in Ankara, where he was on a one-day visit with President Vladimir Putin, that South Stream was “closed. This is it”.

Putin accused the EU of denying Bulgaria, heavily dependent on Russian gas, its sovereign rights, and said that blocking the project “is against Europe’s economic interests and is causing damage”.

He announced that Russia would grant Turkey a 6 per cent discount on its gas imports from Russia for next year, supplying it with 3 bcm more than this year.

Miller said Gazprom had signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey’s Botas on the pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey.

But the plan remains at an early stage. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that “energy ministers and companies (on both sides) were ordered to look into these proposals in detail ... It is hard to assess the costs, financial mechanisms, terms of fulfilment for now.”

He also said Turkey was seeking a 15 per cent discount for Russian gas. Nevertheless, EU-candidate Turkey’s deepening energy ties with Russia are likely to raise eyebrows in Europe and the US, coming as Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, and as Europe tries to lower its energy dependence on Russia, which supplies about 30 per cent of its gas needs, half of that via Ukraine.

“As our cooperation develops and deepens, I think we will be ready for further price reductions,” Miller told reporters in Ankara. “As we develop our joint projects ... the level of gas price for Turkey could reach the one Germany has today.”

The South Stream pipeline had exposed cracks in EU strategy as Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Bulgaria among others saw it as a solution to the risk of a repeat of supply disruptions via

Ukraine, while Brussels and Washington saw the project as entrenching Moscow’s energy stranglehold on Europe. Yet its appeal has waned as economic growth has stalled, and with Azeri Caspian gas due to land in Italy from 2020.

Carlos Pascual, who until earlier this year was the top energy diplomat at the US State Department, said there was no way that the cancellation of the pipeline damages Europe.

Pascual said Gazprom’s action could show the effects of US and EU sanctions imposed on Russia for its aggression toward Ukraine.

A Gazprom analyst agreed the sanctions may have been a factor.

Published on December 02, 2014
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