The following post is part of a new series that brings a fresh perspective to global news from our team of foreign correspondents
In the first days of autumn, Europe is once again thinking about how to stay warm during the winter. Ever since the infamous Russia-Ukraine gas disputes that threatened supplies in recent years,money has poured into finding new ways of transporting gas out of the vast Central Asian fields and into European markets.
Three routes are already under discussion: Nabucco; The Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI); and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. Today, just before those three competitors make their pitches on Saturday to the consortium that controls the largest gas field in Azerbaijan, the British oil giant BP PLC announced a fourth proposal.
The company's proposed South-East Europe Pipeline would follow a route similar to some of the other suggested routes, around the south side of the Black Sea and toward the lucrative customers in Germany, but reportedly envisions a smaller capacity than some others; it could carry perhaps one third the volume of the Nabucco gas corridor. The BP pipeline would also be much cheaper to build, and perhaps more tailored to the quantity of gas expected to flow from the Shah Deniz gas field in the coming years.
European planners may be thinking beyond that field, however, hoping that the route could bring much-needed energy supplies from further away: other Caspian Sea projects, even Turkmenistan and Iraq. A decision about the pipeline is expected by the end of year, and construction could begin quickly. Europe's vulnerability to gas disruptions was highlighted by the Libyan war, which halted flows in the Greenstream pipeline, although the Italian company Eni SpA has promised to get it working again by mid-November.
Watch for the rising power in this region, Turkey, to position itself as the indispensable conduit of energy supplies for Europe. Part of the reason Turkey was threatening to send warships into the waters off Cyprus this week, as we reported in today's Globe, was because Turkey is not impressed by recent musings about Israeli-Cypriot offshore gas projects sending their products north into Europe via its old rival, Greece. Scroll down to page 25 on the PDF file here.