Traditionally, the jokes which Russians made about Azerbaijanis revolved around them being extremely wealthy. One such joke from the 1960s involves an Azerbaijani gentleman arriving in his restaurant and putting his bag on the table. The waiter politely says: “Sir, would you remind removing your bag from the table?” To which the Azerbaijani gentleman responds: “That’s not my bag, it’s my wallet.”
This wealth came from oil and gas, which has traditionally been a huge source of revenue to the Azerbaijan economy. These resources were supplied to other central Asian states, but only recently, with energy security coming to the fore, did the idea to send the assets further afield.
The TANAP (standing for Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline), achieves this goal, sending Azerbaijan’s gas to far as Turkey and beyond into Europe.
When completed, TANAP will run through 20 Turkish provinces until it arrives at the Greek-Turkish border in the ípsala district of Edirne. Once it reaches here, it can provide European nations with steady flows of gas. It’s a huge step for the diversification of Azerbaijan’s energy exports, effectively bringing a central Asian country right to Europe’s doorstep, and undoubtedly opening up other avenues for trade between the blocs. 208
“A Transformational Project”
The World Bank provided a $400 million loan to make the TANAP project, which they call “transformational,” a reality. Cyril Muller, the World Bank’s Vice President for Europe and Central Asia said: “TANAP will not only boost competitiveness and create economic opportunities for people in Azerbaijan and Turkey, it will also support regional trade, improve connectivity, and support energy security in Turkey and in Europe.”
The project’s statistics give some idea of its scale, and perhaps an indication of why it has taken so long to come to fruition. Including a 19km stretch running under the Sea of Marmara, the main pipeline within Turkey alone comes to 1,850km. Bear in mind, too, that this isn’t piping alone – piping is only part of the network required to make TANAP a success. It also includes 7 compressor stations, 4 measuring stations, 11 pigging stations, 49 block valve stations and 2 off-take stations to supply Turkey’s own domestic gas network.
A Commitment To An Integrated Management System
The terrain of Central Asia and Turkey is another reason why a project like TANAP probably took so long to be realized. Vast mountain ranges, rocky terrain and arid land make for stunning landscapes, but present a myriad of challenges for infrastructure projects. Ensuring everything runs smoothly against this backdrop then, requires an integrated management system, which the team behind TANAP have put in place.
The system that it has in place ensures that TANAP always carries out its obligations with the highest quality with care to minimize impacts on health, safety, environment and communities. The system is process-based, and fully compliant with all aspects of ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards. Furthermore, as the largest FDI project ever conducted by the Azerbaijani state, the government are keen for it to be a flagship project which sets new standards and projects a positive image of the country abroad.
Minimal Environmental Impact
Natural gas is a relatively clean form of energy, but projects of the size of TANAP could lead to detrimental environmental impacts if not managed properly. Keenly aware of this reality, the team behind TANAP have put in place a range of measures which minimize all such risks. The most encouraging aspect of this has been how independent consultants and assessors have been invited onto the project to oversee the environmental aspect of operations.
The external consultants are responsible for an ESIA (Environmental and Social Monitoring) report for each year of TANAP’s operations, which also benefits from stakeholders such as communities along TANAP’s route. All sensitive areas along the route (archeological, ecological, soil and water, etc) have also been identified through a thorough survey. This survey identified 9 fauna species and 106 archeological sites which were previously unknown.
Other measures in place include special protective measures being integrated into pipeline route selection and design activities to avoid or mitigate impacts to environmentally sensitive areas. An engagement strategy has also been put in place to achieve mutual understanding between project stakeholders and TANAP, where they can both participate and be consulted on the ongoing decision making process of the project.
Constructing over 2,000km of pipeline and the requisite support network simply couldn’t be achieved by any one organization. The tenders for TANAP attracted bids from all over the world, reflected in the companies that have been given responsibility for different parts of the project. These range from local Turkish firms to those as far away as the United States, all working together to ensure that Azerbaijan’s largest ever infrastructure project is a benchmark for others to follow.
These include Bechtel International, which dealt with the specifics of the complex engineering procurement, and construction management project: Trysan, a Turkish firm, which took care of engineering, procurement and management of the camps along the route; ABB of Sweden, which was responsible for telecoms in the project, and Italy’s Nuovo Pignone, taking care of the gas turbine driven turbo compressors (CS1 and CS5).
Linking The Past To The Future
The archeological findings found along the route of the TANAP are testament to the long history of communities along its pathway. In the west, we’re often guilty of overlooking the significance of countries only slightly beyond the horizon, such as Turkey and Azerbaijan. The presence of TANAP is one step to ensuring that won’t happen again and that ties between Europe and Central Asia are as strong as they’ve ever been.
By the time it is finished in 2018, TANAP will enhance the profile of both Turkey and Azerbaijan as regional energy hubs, provide employment to thousands in areas which in the past, have lacked employment opportunities, strengthen ties between two regions, and of course, bring a new level of energy stability to central and eastern europe. Clearly, it’s no understatement to say that the TANAP project is transformational.
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