ANKARA: Turkmenistan could potentially join Azerbaijan in supplying gas into the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) through Turkey to the EU border, Turkey's energy minister said, helping Europe become less reliant on Russian gas.
Turkey and Azerbaijan signed an agreement in June for the $7 billion TANAP project, set to be completed in six years, to pipe 16 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II field.
“With the TANAP project we have created a structure that will allow gas to transit across Azerbaijan and facilitate trade. This structure is also targeting Turkmen gas. We are seeking Turkmen gas,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.
The minister's comments were made from the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, over the weekend, where he was negotiating gas supplies to Europe with European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger and Azerbaijan's energy minister, Natik Aliyev.
They were reported by Turkish media and confirmed by a ministry spokesman on Monday.
The European Commission is aiming to bring in large volumes of Central Asian gas through a so-called Southern Corridor as it tries to reduce dependence on Russian gas and avoid supply disruptions caused by disputes between Russia and Ukraine.
TANAP is due to start carrying 16 bcm of gas a year from the Shah Deniz II offshore field from 2018, with 6 bcm earmarked for Turkey's domestic market and 10 bcm for Europe. The total could eventually increase to as much as 60 bcm.
Turkmenistan, on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, holds the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves, BP data shows, and could also become a major supplier to European markets.
Marlene Holzner, energy spokeswoman at the European Commission, said the EU delegation in Ashgabat was seeking commitment from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on gas supplies and construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline that would make this possible.
She said the European Union would neither own nor finance such a pipeline.
Speaking by telephone after the conclusion of the talks, Holzner said both Caspian countries had expressed a desire to supply Turkmen gas to Europe, without making any firm commitments.
“Turkmenistan said it continues to be interested in delivering gas to Europe. Azerbaijan also confirmed its interest in being an 'enabler', meaning it would also be a transit country for (Turkmen) gas,” she said.
In theory, Turkmen gas could feed into the pipeline network chosen by partners in the Shah Deniz consortium to serve European markets, she said.
In addition to TANAP, a second pipeline will run from the Turkish border to major EU markets, with two proposed routes under consideration.
Turkmen government officials were not available for comment after Monday's talks. A source in the government said earlier that Azeri President Ilham Aliyev planned to visit Turkmenistan in the autumn to discuss “cooperation in the field of energy”.