EU dreams of Iranian gas to break dependence on Moscow

BRUSSELS, Apr 19: The EU is hoping future gas imports from Iran can break its dependence on Russia as prospects grow for a nuclear deal that would include lifting sanctions on Tehran.

The European Union is betting on so-called Southern Corridor pipelines to supply gas to southern Europe via Turkey from fields in Azerbaijan and nearby countries, including Iran.

“It’s one of our priorities,” EU commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete said Wednesday in the Latvian capital Riga when referring to the gas route.

Due to be operational in 2019, the project is expected in an initial stage to deliver 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year to Bulgaria and Greece.

“That will not be enough,” conceded a source in the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation EU.

But with Iranian gas flowing after an eventual lifting of the sanctions, “capacity could be increased to 40 billion cubic metres of gas per year and that would be substantial,” a European official told AFP on Friday on condition of anonymity.

Europe is desperately seeking to diversify its energy suppliers and supply routes as the Ukraine crisis strains ties with Russia to breaking point.

The 28-nation bloc depended on imports for more than half its needs at a cost of some 400 billion euros (USD430 billion) in 2014.

Russia alone supplies about a third of its requirements — it bought 125 billion cubic metres from Russia’s state gas operator Gazprom, with half that amount going through pipelines that cross Ukraine, which provides the country with a major source of revenue.

But transit through Ukraine has become increasingly unpredictable because of the endless financial disputes between Gazprom and Naftogaz, the Ukrainian operator.

The war pitting Kiev government troops against pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine has only increased tensions.

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller is threatening to put an end to the supply of gas through Ukraine in 2019.

He had bet on the South Stream pipeline, which would have skirted Ukraine to supply gas to Bulgaria under the Black Sea, but Russian President Vladimir Putin scrapped the plan in December as relations with Brussels nose-dived. (AGENCIES)

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