Farewell to Nabucco?

Farewell to Nabucco?

Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız hosted a group of journalists, including myself, in his own electoral province of Kayseri at the start of June, shortly before last year’s elections.

Among the guests in Kayseri were also the representatives of six co-partners of the Nabucco Project, including Botaş.

Representatives from Austria’s OMV, Hungary’s MOL, Romania’s Trangaz, Bulgaria’s Energy Holding and Germany’s RWE companies had traveled many miles to participate in the signing ceremony for the “support agreement” on the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project.

The support agreement signed by the relevant parties finalized the legal and technical framework for the Nabucco project, according to Yıldız.

We then see this piece of news appearing in the press, two days prior to the start of 2012, or exactly seven months after the ceremony in Kayseri: Turkey and Russia have reached an agreement over the South Stream project, which is regarded as a rival to Nabucco.

South Stream is scheduled to go operational in 2015 to start carrying 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Does the South Stream agreement signify a farewell to Nabucco?

I directed this question to Mehmet Öğütçü, the president of the London-based Global Resources Corporation and an adviser to the executive board of British Gas.

Öğütçü is of the opinion that the most fatal blow to Nabucco came with the Trans-Anatolia agreement signed between Turkey and Azerbaijan last December with BP’s backing.

“Although no one has openly declared the death of Nabucco, but that appears to be the case. The parties involved had toiled hard for this project. Unfortunately, Nabucco failed from the very start to provide enough resources to fill up a gas capacity of 31 cubic meters,” he said.

Nabucco also had a rough time in the project’s financing.

Once more I shall make a flashback.

Back in April 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had paid a visit to Istanbul for the Turkish-German Business Forum. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requested that Europe allocate resources for the Nabucco project during a press meeting he jointly hosted with Merkel. Merkel refrained from openly turning Erdoğan’s request down but implied that Germany was lukewarm toward the project.

Öğütçü’s comments also confirm Merkel’s stance: “Nabucco’s most influential stakeholders, RWE from Germany and OMV from Austria, are working very closely with Russian Gazprom in both Russia and in their own countries. The bottom line is that if they were forced to make a decision, it may not be in Nabucco’s favor.”

The losing sides after the most recent developments over the natural gas pipeline project are Nabucco and the firms that support it. Of course, the European Union Commission that backed Nabucco from the very start to even up with Russia is also among the losers.

Öğütçü also made an important assessment regarding Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has turned into a “key country” after Russia for Turkey in the “chess game” over natural gas pipelines. “Both the gas we are receiving from the Şah Deniz 1 field and the gas that will come from the Şah Deniz 2 field can deliver Turkey a tiny bit from its overdependence on Russia,” Öğütçü said.