Large gas transmission projects are not only pipes, gas-distributing equipment, millions of man-hours and sleepless nights of designers. Such projects are often an image of the future which reflects, who and with whom plans to cooperate in the next decades in the most important of branches, in power.

But not every image of the future is fated to be realized. Some gas transmission projects appear in hostages at inadequate ambitions of the authors. Others, facing obstacles, pass through deep transformation and start functioning. The third, being constructed and ready to work, pass into a hover as they contradict specific political tastes of heads of some countries.
Often large gas transmission projects should be a point of collision of opposite images of the future. Some of them conduct to prosperity, another to death. The problem is only that each of the parties is sure that it fights for prosperity.

Today the next aggravation of searches of means which will allow throwing off volatility yoke from Russia is observed in the European Union. In such a situation the wildest ideas come to life, the most extravagant offers become norm and the most impracticable and unpromising project has an opportunity to find financing. There is similar not the first time, but the first time in such a scale and to such exasperation, with exasperation to own European consumers.

To understand, how seriously it is worth perceiving gestures of the European Union in search of alternative routes of delivery of gas, it is useful to remember projects of last years and their successors in the present day. Fortunately, European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) and Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) regularly publish updating of the map of development of the European gas transmission system. This map not only represents the review of the existing infrastructure but also outlines prospects of its development. It allows tracking as idea of the European Union of the gas future changed.

We already reminded in a subject of this number that the EU assumed as if by 2030 it will increase demand for natural gas for 300 billion cubic meters. And in principle the 2000s were time of improbable «gas optimism» when all reputable analytical companies absolutely responsibly assured wide audience that «the Golden Age of gas» approaches. Now the same organizations assure of hopelessness of hydrocarbon raw materials and inevitability of «green» power transition on the European sample not less responsibly.

No wonder that such a project as Nabucco, appeared during «gas optimism».

«Fly, thought, on golden wings»

People who 15 years ago said that the chances of the Nabucco gas pipeline being implemented were vanishingly small were pointed at and, at best, called them dreamers. Is it a joke – what kind of force can prevent a project of strategic importance, which should forever change the balance of power in the European gas market?! Everyone was talking about it, and mostly in enthusiastic tones.
Nabucco had to become an embodiment of the European dream of direct pipeline supply of gas of the Caspian region and the Persian Gulf. Of course, it had to reduce the grown hateful dependence on Russia. Sounds so as if this project was thought up in 2022, but is not present — for a moment when you read these lines, its age exceeded 20 years.
The project started being developed in early February of 2002. And in the summer of the same year, OMV, MOL, Bulgargaz, Transgaz and BOTAŞ signed a fateful agreement of intent, which indicated their desire to build a new gas pipeline. Its length was supposed to be at the level of 3.9 thousand km, and the throughput capacity was 31 billion cubic meters per year. However, it is possible to call these figures extremely inexact when we speak about this project as its configuration several times very significantly changed. So, already by the end of the 2000s it «grew thin» for 600 km (then it was planned that about 200 thousand pipes of big diameter will be spent on it).
It was supposed that fields of Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkmenistan will become resource base of the new gas-main. At some point it was expected that Iran will join the project. But financing search was stopped, potential suppliers for various reasons disappeared. Some of them will sometimes agree to consider today opportunity to deliver gas to Europe, but actually they continue to increase pumping to China. And someone from potential exporters of natural gas faced sanctions from the countries of the West and at the expense of it dropped out of the project. However, the project could not come nearer to more or less notable stage of realization in any way. Everything was limited to numerous negotiations, banquets and loud statements in the press.

The project had a full support of the European Union, and even the United States of America dawned on it the blessing. So, in July, 2009 the US State department sent congratulation to the governments of Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria because the 13th days of the same month they signed intergovernmental agreements on the project of the Nabucco pipeline. In the congratulation it was especially noted that «energy security is reached due to a variety — a variety of power sources and routes of delivery». It was one of favorite ideologems which the European officials still actively use. They sincerely consider that in a question of energy security a number of suppliers are at the head of a corner, but not existence resource base at them, as well as financial and technical capabilities to organize deliveries.
In a feature story we already noted that in 2009 Nabucco slipping by that moment received a second wind. But all the same it appeared that favor of politicians and absolute confidence of the European press in success of the project has not enough in order that it was realized.

«Business moved ahead slowly because of inability to reach the agreement on key questions, such as financing and that, from where will arrive actually gas». Surprisingly, but these words are written not by the Russian ill-wishers who were absolutely in vain doubting success of Nabucco, and more than favorably the French press treating the project.

In the period of an aggravation of 2009 the project united Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Romania, Turkmenistan and Turkey. All work was watched closely by heads of the European Union who promised to provide necessary financing soon. It would seem as it is possible: not to have an idea of a source of gas and money, but in all seriousness to prepare the feasibility study and to discuss necessary investments (10-11 billion dollars). But at participants of process it perfectly turned out. They even decided that in 2011 construction will begin and in 2014 the gas pipeline will be put into operation, and at full capacity will start working in 2019.

At the end of 2009 the edition of The New York Times transferred words of the Turkish leader Recep Erdogan: «The Nabucco project is called unrealizable dream. This project will become success history which will prove that the doubting people were mistaken». But the doubting people were right.

«The destroyed idol»

Widely known is a fact that the name the Nabucco gas pipeline was received in honor of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera by «Navukhodonosor» (Nabucco). Sending is clear — the most part of action of the opera occurs in Babylon which ruins are in Iraq, from where including was planned to receive gas. There is also a motive of release from captivity in it (Europe wishes to throw off a yoke of the Russian gas deliveries). But if to untwist symbolical value of this opera up to the end, it is necessary to remember that its final act is called «The destroyed idol».
After 2009 with all its meetings and loud statements the Nabucco project began to fade. It is necessary to recognize that it did it roughly, with ability inherent in the European bureaucracy to imitate vigorous activity from scratch. For example, in 2011 agreements on support of the project with the transit countries were signed. Then there were talks that commercial operation of the gas pipeline will begin in 2017.
And in 2013 Nabucco turned into Nabucco-West. It would seem that it is possible to shout: «The king died, long live the king». But in this situation it would be more correct to begin to yell another: «The unhumorous clown died, long live the new unhumorous clown «.
A new version of the gas pipeline was actually European bit of the past «project of unrealizable dream». On extent it dried out approximately three times — to 1,3 thousand km. Power of a pipe was estimated incredibly precisely — 10‒23 billion cubic meters. Volume depended on what gas will be transported on the gas-main.
Actually from this point Nabucco even in the form of a concept turned from the project of pan-European value which opens the market of the European Union for the Caspian and Middle Eastern gas, in unconvincing backward history, of which the EU has twenty.
It was supposed to begin commercial operation of Nabucco-West in 2018. Participants of the project hoped for Azerbaijan but it chose alternative in the form of TANAP. In the future on this basis «The southern gas corridor» which was the competitor and at the same time the alternative of Nabucco version grew. Very strongly reduced version as the European consumers along this route are reached by 10 billion cubic meters, it three times less than expected 20 years ago.
In 2013 the Executive Director of OMV declared that «the Nabucco project is complete for us «. Instead of Vaal’s idol at the end of this representation Nabucco was destroyed. Sceptics were right. But during dancing round this idol more viable projects managed to suffer.

Era final of «gas optimism»

It would be strange to claim that the story of projects of Gazprom is absolutely cloudless. All interested persons remember South Stream. The construction plan of this gas pipeline was submitted by the Russian side and the Eni company (Italy) in 2007. The gas-main had to pass from the Russian coast on the bottom of the Black Sea to the coast of Bulgaria and further — up to the northern regions of Italy and Austria. Power of South Stream was planned by the impressing — 63 billion cubic meters of gas.
Ironically, but in the western press it was called the competitor of Nabucco, though the second had no sources of gas and financing. Surprisingly, but a number of negotiations and the declarations signed with high contracting parties does not do the project to more viable. The parties interested in realization of Nabucco understood it as well. It got to the point that in 2010, Western companies proposed to combine the Nabucco and South Stream projects in their European part, although the Russian gas pipeline was supposed to pass to the west — through Serbia. But, probably, the European partners were ready to neglect the interests of Serbia.
During existence of Nabucco-West the attempt to encroach on pipes of South Stream proceeded. There is an opinion that the European Union in general and Bulgaria in particular tightened issue of the permission for construction of the Russian pipe to reanimate the failure Nabucco. For the same reason South Stream did not receive an exception from under norms of action of the Third power package, though by that moment it became obvious that a number of persons interested to realize the large gas transmission project without access to resources of gas aspire to zero.

But the Russian side did not want someone to drag hot chestnuts from a fire with its hands. Therefore South Stream stopped existence. There were two projects at once — «The Turkish stream» (31,5 billion cubic meters) and «Nord Stream — 2″ (55 billion cubic meters). If the destiny of the second now is in a hover, being a victim of political tastes of leaders of the European countries, the first one successfully functions.

South Stream did not sink into a non-existence as Nabucco, and was quite successfully transformed. The irony of the situation is that, do not put a spoke in the wheel the European Union of the Russian gas pipeline, Italy and the nearby countries would not suffer from accident on gas knot in the Austrian Baumgarten in 2017 in any way. It would seem, gas industry dropped transparent hints at a difference between truly and incorrectly understood power safety, but Brussels was rather rested that not to notice these hints.

But why Nabucco simply disappeared though all gave it support, and South Stream, let in other scale, but earned? Among all reasons which generated such a difference, main it is possible to call existence of resource base. The operator Nabucco (Nabucco Gas Pipeline International) had to develop only the project, construct the gas pipeline and collect payments from producers. Purely European model: the owner of a pipe should not own a resource. Suppliers of natural gas only reserve transport capacities. They had to solve, from where gas will arrive. The well-known principle «construct a pipe, and gas will appear in it «. But a pipe not the main thing, the main thing is gas.

And this fact was considered by the EU at delivery of exceptions for Azerbaijan «southern gas corridor». By the way, it also does not mind to use free capacities of «The southern corridor».

At the beginning of the 2010s «gas optimism» of Europe disappeared. Nobody expected that consumption of natural gas will grow from 502 billion cubic meters (as of 2005) to 815 billion cubic meters by 2030. Minds of the European officials and politicians were captured by «green» power transition. Therefore nobody wanted to pull frankly failure project for which there were no suppliers of gas and which need in former years was explained by aspiration to reduce sharply increasing dependence on one supplier (Russia). Besides, Europe at a boundary of the 2000s and the 2010s was included into the period of an economic crisis which consequences are not overcome still.
But in the 2010s EU under pressure of economic problems learned to separate grains from a ryegrass and unpromising projects — from having the right for existence. At last the European Union ceased to believe that gas appears in a pipe and started cooperating more with suppliers, giving preference to practice of long-term contracts.
We hope you liked this sending to an ending of the movie «The game of the fall». If you didn’t catch it, then it’s okay. After all, the idea that the EU has learned something is just a joke. There are obscure projects that have existed for years and do not know what they would turn into, which supplier to attach to. In 2022, some of these projects received a second wind.

A son of Poseidon

In the summer of the current year the DEPA and Edison companies announced the tender for works on creation of coastal infrastructure of the EastMed gas pipeline. It is expected that the total amount of contracts will make 1,3 billion dollars. And Saipem and Allseas soon have to announce the tender for prospecting works on a route of sea part of the gas pipeline.

EastMed, to be exact, of Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, has to connect fields of east part of the Mediterranean Sea (the Israeli Leviathan and the Cyprian Aphrodite) to Greece. It is expected that further natural gas will go on the Poseidon gas pipeline and on an interconnector Greece — Bulgaria. As for technical parameters, the extent of the gas-main has to make 1,9 thousand km, the maximum depth of laying on a bottom — about 3 thousand m, and productivity — 10 billion cubic meters (with possibility of increase to 16 billion cubic meters). Certainly, EastMed has the status of the project of public importance, on it restrictions of the Third power package do not extend.

For understanding of scales of the conceived we will notice that power «Nord Stream — 2″ makes 55 billion cubic meters at 1,2 thousand km of extent and the maximum depth of laying on a bottom about 450 m. However, already realized «Southern gas corridor» at the power, comparable with EastMed, has big extent (if to consider only TANAP-TAP sites — 2,7 thousand km).

Except quite notable support from the European Union, EastMed traditionally is approved by the United States. So, in August, 2019 there were negotiations of ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus with the assistance of the Assistant US Secretary of State. Our comparison of this gas-main with «Nord Stream — 2″ is not unmotivated attempt to remind once again of outstanding qualities of the Russian project. These are representatives of America during this meeting called EasternMed Miterraneanpipeline replacement «Nord Stream — 2″. Why? What for? Who knows, probably, there was a political expediency? For some reason it did not help to attract investors.

In January of the current year the USA declared that do not support the project any more. It would seem that for trouble. Here the States did not support «The Turkish stream», and it did not prevent it at all.

Washington sent the document in which specified that does not support the project as it is not environmentally friendly to Greece, and also there is no economic and commercial viability in it. It would be possible to ask a question why these lines were not noticeable at once. But actually these characteristics are not so important, as final: the project creates intensity in the region.

Really, EastMed became a subject of disputes between representatives of Israel and the European Union with Turkey. Everything rested against Northern Cyprus which though is the unrecognized state, but at the same time it is a fact of objective reality. And this objective reality in the person of Turkey appeared against gas transmission and mining projects which fall within the scope of interests of the unrecognized republic.

As to understand news about the tender which was announced by DEPA and Edison? Really with sea part of EastMed everything is solved? It is worth reminding that the tender (even the tender for very much important project for much money) does not mean the beginning of construction yet.

To some extent EastMed can be called a «son» of earlier mentioned Poseidon project with whom DEPA and Edison have been dealing 17 years. By the way, tenders for works on creation of coastal infrastructure of this gas pipeline were held approximately in 2011. Also they came to the end with success.

That does not prevent ENTSOG and GIE all these years to draw Poseidon a promising dotted line on the cards in any way. At some point this gas pipeline even was offered as continuation of «The Turkish stream».

At the moment it is considered more realistic option of delivery of the Israeli gas to Europe through Egypt. In June of the current year the head of European Commission Ursula von der Leien and the president of Egypt Abdoul-Fattakh Khalil As-Sisi published the joint statement concerning climate, power and «green» power transition. Among other things there it was told that natural gas from Israel, Egypt and «other sources in the region of East Mediterranean» will be delivered to Europe through the Egyptian infrastructure intended for LNG export. Fine, it is incredibly viable option if to compare to EastMed.

Dotted line by sea

Actually EastMed is not the only sea project of the European Union which has few chances of realization. So, the promising (to someone and something) gas pipeline Gasdotto Algeria Sardegna Italia disappeared even as a sketch on the card. The feasibility study on this project was complete in 2005, and in 2007 Italy and Algeria concluded the intergovernmental agreement. It was supposed to pump on a pipe 8-10 billion cubic meters. But the project was postponed.

The fantastic Black Sea White Stream project is considered still conditionally existing. It several times changed a configuration since 2005 when it was declared for the first time. But the main essence of the project remains former: to deliver the Caspian gas through Georgia on the bottom of the Black Sea to Romania, Ukraine and further to the Central Europe. As well as other European projects which are in a subconscious state this is modest on capacity — 8 billion cubic meters (with possibility of increase to 32 billion cubic meters). However, the realized «Southern gas corridor» too delivers quite modest 10 billion cubic meters in the EU.

And here we come to an interesting moment to which is worth paying attention. Practically all alternative of Russia are rather modest projects the majority from which will hardly be once realized. Even if Europe prolongs operation of separate fields in the territory and realizes all the «diversified» routes in some years, at best it will manage to compensate a part of the falling production. In this situation it will be difficult to fight against «dependence on Russia». It turns out that the European Union needs only to hope for catastrophic decline in demand. Well, dreams come true.

The leader among the doubtful

The last project which we will consider in this article is the gas pipeline which Nigeria and Morocco intend to construct. It is at the same time rather surprising and obviously tries to find financing on a subject of sanctions war of Europe against Russia and makes it unconventionally. But for a start is the project essence.
Nigeria and Morocco in the person of Nigerian National Petroleum Company and ONHYM a few years ago conceived to construct one of the most extended gas pipelines in the world. Length of its 5660 km, it has to pass through 11 countries.

In May of the current year the Minister of oil of Nigeria Timipre Silva declared that «Russia expressed interest» in financing of the project. His words were heard after representatives of the European Union began to speak about hopes for Nigeria, seeing in it replacement of our country in the EU market.
We refuse to think that the words of the Minister it is an attempt to hasten the European Union with investments. Eventually, unless the country which delivers to Europeans to 15 billion cubic meters from the extracted 50 billion cubic meters of gas can, to try to press on partners? Especially in the situation when the super ambitious project did not find the necessary sum of money, and whether there is enough gas in Nigeria — it is not known.

Finishing our story, we will notice that today the opinion in the West is expressed that the current conflict will accelerate transition to carbon-free power and also will lead to implementation of alternative projects which will promptly carry out the European Union through a coal and gas purgatory of 2022 to the «green» future. It is stated including the Russian oil and gas emigrants. We even assume that this opinion is the truth. But there is a huge difference between the truth and true. True is a safe way in darkness between a chasm and monsters, and the truth is that road which is chosen personally by you. Therefore you can tell an honest truth leading people in an abyss or in a toothy mouth.

The aggravation of searches of the next project of dream which will exempt unfortunate Europe from the Russian gas yoke, is quite natural process in the situation when leaders of the EU are lost and do not understand what to do farther. Therefore they cling to that strategy which let and did not work for last years, but is well familiar and fulfilled. And that fact that this strategy allows to build and pull down only chimeras like Nabucco, nobody, probably, cares. As discrepancy of their attempts to allure gas from alternative suppliers at preservation of rhetoric about hopelessness of all hydrocarbons in the «green» future does not excite Europeans.

The power does not suffer sporadic approach. It does not suffer continuous unmotivated change of the direction of development which is demanded by politicians to please to the actual agenda. The nature of power as the branch which is the cornerstone of all economy is opposite to short-term approach, the power demands planning for the decades ahead, far beyond presidential terms and subjects, fashionable for this season. Those who forget about it, doom themselves and the countries on inevitable power and economic crises.