Political tensions in Eastern Europe tend to have a number of consequences – not least for energy security. In the winter of 2009, many central and eastern European states went without vital gas supplies as tensions between Russia and Ukraine spilled over. The issue drew a line under Europe’s energy dependence and the undiversified sources of that energy. Something had to change.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will certainly form part of the overall solution. It will form the European leg of the Southern Gas Corridor, one of the most complex energy value chains in the world. In a recent wide-ranging interview with TAP Managing Director, Ian Bradshaw, we spoke about the pipeline, the effort behind making it a reality and the difference it will make to the countries in south east Europe and beyond.
A new frontier for Europe’s Energy
We began by asking Mr. Bradshaw about the scale of TAP and a little more about how it would increase the diversity of Europe’s energy sources: “TAP will transport natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Europe. The approximately 878 km long pipeline will connect with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Turkish-Greek border at Kipoi, cross Greece and Albania and the Adriatic Sea, before coming ashore in Southern Italy.”
Construction on the pipeline began in mid-2016 and will run until the end of 2019. The pipeline comprises of 32,000 pipes in Greece, 13,000 pipes in Albania, 660 pipes in Italy and 9,400 pipes offshore, with each pipe weighing about 10 tonnes. It can justifiably claim to be one of the world’s most important infrastructure projects currently underway, so it is of little surprise that its shareholders include the likes of BP (20%), SOCAR (20%), Snam (20%), Fluxys (19%), Enagás (16%) and Axpo (5%).
Mr. Bradshaw explained: “TAP’s routing can facilitate gas supply to several South Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and others. TAP’s landfall in Italy provides multiple opportunities for further transport of Caspian natural gas to some of the largest European markets such as Germany, France, the UK, Switzerland and Austria.” Eventually, it will provide 10 billion cubic metres of gas annually – enough to supply 7 million households.
The goal is to provide access to a clean and stable flow of energy. Mr. Bradshaw says: “Europe needs new sources of natural gas to meet its long-term demand, fuel economic recovery and diversify energy supply. Gas – as the cleanest of fossil fuels – will continue to play a key, strategic role in the energy mix for decades to come. According to the European Commission’s strategy, each member state should have access to at least three different sources of supply. In this regard, the resources from the Caspian region are the next great opportunity for Europe to benefit from.”
The role that TAP will pay here is crucial – able to connect to different infrastructure such as the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP) and the Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB) and bringing a new source of gas to countries such as these which currently depend on a single source or are without access to gas at all. The statistics bear out Caspian gas’s importance to countries in the region: the gas that TAP will transport represents approximately 40% of Bulgaria’s need (1bcm/a), a third of Greece’s gas demand (1bcm/a), and around 12% of Italy’s gas demand.
Knock-on benefits and Stakeholder engagement
While energy security is the bigger picture, the TAP project is already impacting positively in other ways, as investments of this size often tend to. For one, it has created thousands of direct and indirect jobs in its host countries. Currently more than 5,200 people work for the project in Greece, Albania and Italy, as part of TAP’s network of key contractors. Also, there are numerous people employed at sub-contractor companies, which provide various goods and services to the project.
The company is also ensuring that the host countries see the benefits too. Mr. Bradshaw tells us: “We are investing over 55 million Euro in projects along our neighbouring communities. These include rehabilitating schools, cleaning marine litter, donating equipment to fire brigades and emergency services, to name just a few. We have also rehabilitated 58 kilometres of access roads and bridges in Albania, which also benefit over 200,000 people.”
It has involved its stakeholders at every part of the journey, implementing stakeholder engagement plans for each country – highlighting the importance of good business practices and corporate citizenship to the company. Mr. Bradshaw says: “An overall stakeholder engagement strategy and comprehensive stakeholder engagement plans for each country guide the detailed identification and mapping of the full range of stakeholders. Through these engagements, the process is also refined over time as appropriate to be as meaningful and effective as possible for stakeholders. In Greece alone for instance, more than 800 community meetings and 45,000 individual ones have been conducted, in order to explain to local residents the why, when, and how of the project.”
Diverse is a word that could be used to amply describe TAP’s partnerships, which range from its host countries to community groups, and the corporations it works with on the operations. Mr. Bradshaw tells us: “First and foremost, TAP enjoys a very robust cooperation with the host governments of Greece, Albania and Italy. They have been staunch supporters of our pipeline and continue to be fully committed to making TAP a reality. However, most important of all is our partnership with the communities living along the route where the TAP pipeline traverses. We are guests, and, as such, remain committed to holding an open dialogue and building trustful and lasting relationships with the communities residing along the pipeline route.”
For the project execution, Technip, SNAM, UTG and RSK are providing project management services, Corinth Pipe Works and Salzgitter are supplying line pipes. In addition the companies Bonatti J&P Avax, Spiecapag, MaxStreicher and Saipem are constructing the pipeline and Renco Terna are constructing the compressor stations. Combined, these companies have made their own commitment to hire locally, Mr. Bradshaw estimates that some 85% of the people working for the TAP project in Greece and Albania have been employed locally so far.
Environmental Sustainability and CSR
Natural gas is a relatively clean form of energy but a project like TAP inevitably brings challenges to ensure that the environment is adversely impacted in any way. Before any work was carried out, the team identified potential environmental and social impacts as part of their thorough Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process. This was conducted in each of the transit countries by technical experts and in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
A number of measures have subsequently been taken which show the firm’s commitment to put sustainability into practice. Examples of this range from sensitive water management (including the re-use of hydrostatic test water), to reducing the width of the pipeline right of way in forest or other areas of concern, comprehensive waste management, the use of low impact, non-toxic and biodegradable chemicals, preserving valuable topsoil, translocating olive trees and of course, careful pipeline route selection.
As previously mentioned, TAP will invest over €55 million the communities along the pipe’s route as part of its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility in. Mr. Bradshaw singles out three initiatives in particular which have been brought about by TAP – one in each country: “In Greece, we have invested in specialised equipment for the maintenance and full operational restoration of the firefighting fleet of the Central Macedonia Fire Brigade; in Albania, we rehabilitated a double lane bridge in the city of Çorovoda, which will improve transport infrastructure as well as access to the main hospital in the city; and finally, in Italy, we offered a high-level training programme dedicated to the food sector, aiming to enhance the service quality in the tourism sector.”
A stable future for Europe’s Energy
At a time when countries are looking to move away from the most polluting fossil fuels of oil and coal, TAP is a hugely positive step in the right direction towards a cleaner and more sustainable Europe. When it begins operations in 2020, it TAP will add to a whole new reality for European energy. When asked about the legacy he hopes it will have, Mr. Bradshaw is emphatic: “we can build a true long-lasting legacy for our shareholders, the host countries and the communities along our route. A legacy in which we can all take pride.”
He concludes: “With regards to how we want to be described after one or two decades of operation, it’s simple. When our pipeline starts transporting Caspian gas in 2020, we want to look back with satisfaction at a job well done – Not only a strategic piece of infrastructure but a pipeline that: safely delivers Caspian gas to Europe, has minimal environmental, cultural and socio-economic impacts during its construction and operations and respects and cares for the communities and stakeholders along the route.”
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13 February 2017