Azerbaijan’s forward-thinking energy strategy – Albania strives to connect with Southern Gas Corridor

Azerbaijan’s forward-thinking energy strategy – Albania strives to connect with Southern Gas Corridor

Azerbaijan has emerged as a prominent player on the global stage, attracting increasing attention as a valuable European ally. Among Azerbaijan’s European partners, Albania has stood as a steadfast and strategic supporter over the years. Over the past three decades, Azerbaijan and Albania have cultivated friendly interstate relations, leading to a partnership built on shared perspectives regarding various global issues, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Trend News.

Despite that, the two countries are still in the process of establishing diplomatic offices in the two countries. However, some important steps have already been made in this regard. For instance, President Ilham Aliyev signed a law on the establishment of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Albania in the city of Tirana in November last year. In turn, Albania decided to open an embassy in Azerbaijan in March 2023.

The visit of President of Albania Bajram Begaj that has kicked off yesterday serves as further evidence of the ongoing enhancement of interstate relations and their evolution into a strong bond between friendly nations and strategic partners. It is worth mentioning that the President of Albania’s second visit to Azerbaijan this year serves as clear evidence of the significance and importance of these relations.

One of the main topics on the agenda is, of course, energy cooperation. As Azerbaijan is aimed at expanding the geography of its gas supplies from 6 to at least 10 countries, Albania here stands on the frontline in getting access to Azerbaijani energy resources.

In 2021, Azerbaijan’s gas exports to Europe amounted to 8 bcm. However, by 2022, these supplies had already increased to 11 bcm. This year, the country aims to further enhance its gas exports to the region, targeting 12 bcm. Overall, the global market is projected to receive a total of 24.5 bcm of Azerbaijani gas in 2023, with nearly half of this volume destined for Europe. This significant proportion underscores the importance of Europe as a major recipient of Azerbaijani gas.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the European segment of the Southern Gas Corridor, has the capability to transport around 10 bcm of gas annually to various European markets. Additionally, the pipeline has been designed with the potential to increase its capacity to 20 bcm per year.

As a crucial component of the Southern Gas Corridor, TAP holds strategic and economic significance for Europe, ensuring reliable access to a fresh natural gas source. It serves as a conduit for transporting natural gas from the vast Shah Deniz field located in the Azerbaijani segment of the Caspian Sea. Covering a distance of 878 kilometers, the pipeline links up with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Turkey-Greece border in Kipoi. From there, it traverses Greece and Albania, crosses the Adriatic Sea, and finally reaches the southern shores of Italy.

TAP plays a vital role in enhancing Europe’s energy security, promoting supply diversification, and supporting decarbonization objectives.

Even though Albania is among the countries that the European section of the Southern Gas Corridor traverses, it currently does not receive Azerbaijani gas due to insufficient infrastructure.

As President Ilham Aliyev said during the ceremony for establishing the Solidarity Ring (STRING) initiative, Azerbaijan is in the process of negotiations with Albania to build a local gas distribution system, as Sothern Gas Corridor crosses the country’s territory.

Thus, Albania intends to connect the Vlora TPP with the TAP through the gas pipeline as well as the LNG terminal to improve the energy security of the country and the region.

By establishing connections with other pipelines, TAP will facilitate the supply of gas to countries in Southeastern Europe. Once the Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB) project is completed, Bulgaria will be able to meet up to 33 percent of its gas demand through TAP. With exit points in Greece and Albania, as well as its arrival in Italy, TAP offers numerous opportunities to transport Azerbaijani gas to broader European markets.

As a result, some 1.2 bcm of gas, of which 1 billion will go to Italy, and 200 million – to Albania, will be transported via TAP from 2026.

Azerbaijan’s long-term energy strategy has demonstrated its success by effectively ensuring access to the European energy market during challenging times of supply diversification obstacles. Azerbaijan has consistently earned immense respect from its partners through its exemplary execution of projects in the oil and gas industry. More and more countries are lined up to get access to Azerbaijani gas resources, and Albania does not stay aside. When faced with a crisis, Azerbaijan stepped in to support by signing a memorandum to double energy supplies to the EU, increasing it from 10 bcm to 20 bcm by 2027. Now we vividly observe how this crucial step Azerbaijan made under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev to launch the Southern Gas Corridor project pays off. This strategy has now become as not only one of the most successful, but also the rightest one to support Europe during these challenging times.