THE GAS PIPELINES: A GAME OF CASPIAN PATIENCE

Sergey SMIRNOV


Sergey Smirnov, Head of the industry sector of the Ekspert Kazakhstan journal (Almaty, Kazakhstan)


We all know that the European gas reserves in the North Sea are rapidly depleting. This means that the leading countries of Western Europe and some of the East European countries will have to look for fuel elsewhere. Scared by the Russian-Ukrainian gas squabbles they are actively seeking alternative sources. Poland went as far as suggesting that the EU should create an energy pact (patterned on NATO) under which all members would pledge to help those in their ranks that need urgent support. So far, the idea has not gained support.

Today, new pipelines from the Caspian area, the Middle East, and North Africa might be built; new marine terminals for tankers carrying liquefied gas from the Persian Gulf are also needed. The commissioned North African gas fields cannot cover Europes gas needs. The Middle East cannot be described as a stable gas supplier; it also prefers to sell its liquefied gas to Southeast Asia. In this context, the Caspian looks like the best possible option.

Practically all the projects look at Central Asia and Azerbaijan as the main gas suppliers; so far little has been said about the projects possible economic efficiency. It is still much more important to attract attention to ones own country, to raise a political wave, and to scare away potential rivals. The Europeans are working on the Nabucco project (a gas pipeline that will go from the southern part of the Caspian, via Turkey to Southeast Europe. It will end in Baumgarten in Austria). The plan is far from complete: investments, gas sources, and transportation tariffs have not been discussed, no national companies have been set up for engaging in construction; preliminary works have.


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