On Nov. 30, 2019, Ipsala, a small and wonderful town with a surface area of 753 square kilometers and a population of 30,000, located in Turkey's Edirne province hosted a very important historic event for Europe. On this day, the city hosted the opening ceremony of TANAP, the 1,850-kilometer-long gas pipeline from the Turkish province of Erdahan onward to Europe. With this historic event, the export of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey and Europe became a reality.
TANAP is the key pillar and the most important part of the 3,500-kilometer-long energy corridor stretching from Azerbaijan to Europe. Once launched, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will connect with TANAP on the Greek border, will lay the foundation of the first-ever direct transport of Azerbaijani natural gas from the Caspian basin to European markets. The $38-billion-worth TANAP project was a logical continuation of the strategic course designed and followed by Azerbaijan and Turkey to contribute to energy security of the Southern Gas Corridor involving seven European countries.
The European Union represents three out of the seven countries covered by the Southern Gas Corridor. As the main segment of this corridor, TANAP will deliver gas from the Shah Deniz-2 gas condensate field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea to European consumers. TANAP connects to Europe, TAP from the route of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and continues onward to involve Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The first phase of TANAP was launched on June 12 last year in the Turkish city of Eskişehir, which laid the foundation of the delivery of the first gas to Turkey. Just four years ago, when the world commodity exchanges were shocked by the volatility of oil prices, TANAP, founded by the leadership of Azerbaijan and Turkey, reached onward to the European border.
As of present, the volume of gas transported to Turkey via TANAP has reached 3.3 billion cubic meters. In the coming years, it is planned to increase the transportation capacity of TANAP to 16 billion cubic meters and then to 31 billion cubic meters. In addition, if the Trans-Adriatic Natural Gas Pipeline, TAP, starts shipping gas to Europe, Europe will be able to reach the long-awaited Caspian gas and new opportunities.
In recent years, the increased demand for natural gas as a low-carbon energy source has streamlined the diversification of sources and routes along with contributing to the implementation of new projects and the development of the gas industry. The weight of these projects is not only limited to the benefits they will bring to the peoples of Turkey, Azerbaijan and other neighboring nations, but also make a positive contribution to Europe's energy security.
At the opening ceremony of the pipeline, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted that "TANAP does not only guarantee Turkey's energy security but aims to bolster the energy supply security of European countries as well. Unlike TANAP, no prior project was successfully implemented to contribute to the energy security of Europe because of technical, financial and political factors, although various projects have been discussed on individual platforms and design works have been carried out. Azerbaijan has opened new horizons in energy security of Europe by offering appropriate conditions for these projects.
Energy supply to Europe, particularly to South and Southeast Europe, in most cases, depends on only one source. These projects will play an indispensable role in the countries of the region offering access to robust energy sources, as well as contributing to the economic independence of these countries.
TANAP's realization has never been an easy process. Prior to TANAP, Azerbaijan had to go through a long journey and a very difficult test. It is worth emphasizing that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, known as the "Contract of the Century" provided Azerbaijan with experience in global project management.
Launched in 2006, this pipeline has turned Azerbaijan into one of the best alternatives and a platform for cooperation in the delivery of Caspian (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia) energy resources to Europe. The Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, launched in 2007, was the next giant project for Azerbaijan and Turkey to connect European and Asian energy channels.
At the international forum, One Belt, One Road, held in Beijing, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, referring to implementation goals and Azerbaijan's role in the project, said: "Azerbaijan has vast oil and gas reserves. We build multiple pipelines to transport our oil and gas to international markets and our main target is to diversify [the] economy, to invest in human capital and to create sustainable opportunities for growth."
It is an indisputable fact that the world's energy map has changed a lot with these successful projects and new cooperation models have emerged with new players, such as Azerbaijan, acting as initiators and key implementers of new projects.
It is once again testified that strong integrated links among producing, transit and consuming countries are important to achieve energy security. The cooperation models proven over time between Azerbaijan and Turkey has been a decisive factor here. Azerbaijan's success in the realization of these projects, achieved by transforming regional contradictions into cooperation platforms and involving all stakeholders, in fact, played an exemplary role for other countries. These diversified giant energy corridors are also strategically important as they connect East and West and have important economic implications.
These projects will also strengthen legal, economic, cultural ties and mutual understanding among the countries involved introducing new platforms for regional cooperation and security.
As underlined by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: "This project will create bridges between countries and pave the way for even greater mutual understanding." This cooperation format could also be introduced to address tensions faced in the distribution of new hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean in order to create new opportunities for European energy security and bring peace and stability to the region.
These projects and the benefits they bring to the region create new economic formation that will contribute to everyone. This economic formation could serve as an incentive to achieve technological innovations and to maximize economic gains in the countries of the South Caucasus, whereas it will be safer and cheaper energy sources for European countries. It is therefore expected that European countries will mobilize all their efforts to achieve TAP's realization in a short time.
*Financial analyst at the Centre for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication of Azerbaijan Republic