Trend’s exclusive interview with Giorgos Stathakis, Minister of Εnergy and Environment of Greece, on the occasion of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council’s meeting to be held in Baku Feb.23.
Q: What are your expectations from the upcoming meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council?
A: I believe that the third meeting of the Advisory Council in Baku will deepen further the practical realization of the Southern Gas Corridor. It will send a strong signal that the EU strategic aspiration of diversifying gas supply routes works not only on paper but in real practice. Three years after its initial inception, this priority project promoted the cooperation between gas suppliers and transit countries and led to tangible results. The next step is to consolidate further this cooperation by combining the expansion of the corridor with the gradual creation of what I call a South-Eastern Energy Crossroad.
Q: How do you see the significance of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project for Greece and the progress in the project’s implementation?
A: TAP is the key driver that puts the whole Southern Gas Corridor concept into place. The project is unfolding smoothly and in a timely manner across the 550 km of Greek soil. Already works on the initial 30 km of the pipeline are completed and the operations on the other parts are well underway. The involvement of local companies in the construction processes reinvigorated the economy of Northern Greece. The long-term benefits though are yet to come, since TAP will consolidate the country’s position as a key transfer country of the Southern Gas Corridor, while a future upgrade of the pipeline’s capacity to 20 billion cubic meters combined with additional infrastructure works of gas storage could lay the ground for transforming Greece into a gas hub.
Q: At what stage is the work on privatization of DESFA natural gas grid operator?
A: The project of DESFA privatization proved so far a rather adventurous undertaking with many twists and turns coupled with legal uncertainty. Our government opted for a clean start and will launch very soon a new tender process that will abide by the EU requirements and will set qualitative standards, such as investment plans and job creation, for the prospective buyers.
Q: Senior officials from Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Israel have agreed to advance talks on a pipeline for exporting gas from Israel to Europe. How do you assess the possibility of Israeli gas export to Europe?
A: A direct and intra-EU connection between the Levantine Basin offshore resources should be a top priority project, if one takes into account that current discoveries already adding up to 1.2 Tcm, equal the size of Azerbaijani gas reserves [in Shah Deniz field]. Pre-Feed studies demonstrated that the EastMed Pipeline could be a fully viable export option to the converging dynamics between present and future gas discoveries in the East Med Region and Europe’s growing import requirements. It also fits well with the EU’s target of increasing the security of supply and diversification of routes. I believe that all interested parties should continue in the spirit of the already existing good cooperation to advance the project farther.
Q: How do you see the prospects for connection of the Southern Gas Corridor with vertical pipelines such as the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) and Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline (IAP)?
A: If EastMed qualifies as the southern part of the South-Eastern Energy Crossroad, I referred to in the beginning, then vertical pipelines such as IGB or IAP form the northern part of it. Our government strongly endorses these projects with particular reference to IGB. The latter is a key project and a stepping stone for the development of the vertical corridor that will further ensure the security of supply of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. We are determined to continue our good cooperation with our Bulgarian friends so as to bring the project to fruition.