Doubling TAP capacity considered; BP rethinks plan

Shareholders behind the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) project, to carry natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, via Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea, are examing the possibility of doubling the pipeline’s capacity from the onset in 2020, according to sources.

New market conditions that have emerged in the region following the debacle of South Stream, for Russian gas to Europe, have prompted British multinational oil and gas giant BP, which holds a 20 percent stake in the TAP project, to reconsider its regional plan.

The Southstream pipeline had been intended to supply an annual amount of 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian natural gas to Europe.

BP is examing a capacity increase for the TAP project from 10 billion bcm per year to 20 billion bcm per year, from the project’s expected launch in 2020, sources said. This capacity boost was on the cards, but, based on the original plan, its implementation had been scheduled for the project’s second stage of operations, long after 2020, assuming the enormous Azeri gas deposit in the Shah Deniz area was further developed.

BP has already informed Greek officials and the European Commission of its interest to revise its TAP capacity plan, sources said.

Farmland owners to be compensated for land to be used along the TAP project’s Greek stretch, covering 543 kilometers, are expected to begin receiving expropriation payments in the new year. Construction work is scheduled to begin in 2016 with an objective to complete development by 2018 or 2019, in preparation for TAP’s 2020 operating launch.

The South Stream project’s cancellation increases the likelihood of Greece becoming a regional gas hub in southeastern Europe over the next five years as TAP will be connected to the planned IGB pipeline, an 182-kilometer project, to link Greek and Bulgarian gas infrastructure. It remains unclear whether a 2016 completion target date will be met for the IGB project. The objective is to further expand the IGB pipeline to Romania, Hungary, all the way up to a gas hub in the Austrian area of Baumgarten, close to Vienna.