Gazprom starts Turkish Stream pipeline's European part construction
Russia's Gazprom has launched the construction of the second string of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline in the Black Sea, local media reported, citing official sources.
The Vedomosti newspaper reported, citing an official and a contractor, that some 20-25 kilometers (12.4-15.5 miles) of the pipe had already been laid along the bottom of the Black Sea. The construction activities were conducted by an Audacia pipelay vessel of the Swiss Allseas company, which gained Gazprom’s tender.
Marinetraffic.com Web site says that the ship is close to the Mali Utrish village and is moving at a speed of 0.10–0.15 knots on the route of the first thread of the Turkish Stream, which corresponds to the speed of laying a pipe.
Gazprom has not yet announced the beginning of the construction of the second pipeline's string.
Meanwhile, Allseas told the newspaper that 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the first string of the pipe had already been laid, providing though no information on the second string.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Gazprom has already built 50 kilometers of the sea part of the pipeline.
The pipeline will consist of two branches with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters each. One of them, to be finished in 2018, is to supply gas to Turkey, another one is to transit gas to the European countries through Turkey and is to be finished in 2019.
A leading analyst of the National Energy Security Fund, a lecturer at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, Igor Yushkov, speaking to a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, said that Gazprom is forced to act so hastily by the US Congress, which is approaching the adoption of a law on new sanctions against Russia, which will include a partial ban on the work of Western companies on Russian pipeline projects. "The race has begun: whether Gazprom will have time to lay the gas pipeline before sanctions are introduced. Also Gazprom should show that the Turkish flow is not a new project in every possible way," he explained.
Pipe-laying companies are also among those forbidden to work with Gazprom. "Gazprom is striving to build an underwater part of the second string to the borders of the territorial waters of Bulgaria, while conducting additional negotiations with Brussels that it will be more convenient to lay a pipe along the old route of the South Stream. If Brussels does not give guarantees, the second string will be turned to the south and finished parallel to the first string ibto Turkey," Igor Yushkov predicts.
The most acute problem in this case is that there are no pipelayers in Russia capable of building a pipeline on the bottom of the Black Sea. "If foreign companies are forbidden to work with Gazprom before the Turkish part of the Turkish flow is completed, the project can be frozen," the expert explained.
At the same time, Gazprom does not yet have a firm decision on where to lay the pipe. "It would be in the common interest of Russia and Europe to return to the old route of the South Stream, but the Europeans refuse to do so. The countries of Southern Europe - Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, which could earlier become transitors and buyers of Russian gas, will suffer from it," Igor Yushkov stressed.
At the same time, these countries will be able to receive gas from Turkey. "The Transbalkan gas pipeline, which transports gas via Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria to Turkey, will be relieved. The reverse of the Transbalkan gas pipeline will help Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary continue to receive Russian gas after the termination of its transit through Ukraine," the leading analyst of the National Energy Security Fund concluded.