01/07/2021

Geopolitics

Cancelled Pipeline Projects in the Balkans

Russia’s long-held monopoly over the eastern half of Europe’s gas supplies – along with the discovery of a massive gas field in Azerbaijan – birthed the idea of the Southern Gas Corridor, a proposed network of pipelines that would introduce gas from the Caspian and Middle Eastern regions into Europe through the Balkans, decreasing Moscow’s political and economic influence in the EU. During the 2000s, several competing projects arose to realise the imagined purpose of the Corridor, including two highly politicised ones, both of which were cancelled eventually. The Nabucco and the South Stream pipelines offered unique chances for both Brussels and Moscow to weaken or strengthen Central Europe’s dependency on Russian gas, but in the end, it was their fight that gave the opportunity for a third project to actually close the deal.

The Nabucco Pipeline

Technical details

The Nabucco pipeline (also referred to as the Turkey-Austria gas pipeline) was a proposed – and later abandoned – new natural gas route from Erzurum, East Turkey, to the Baumgarten an der March gas hub (near Vienna), Austria. Between these countries, the pipeline would have gone through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, thus making these five transit countries the primary investors and shareholders of the grandiose €7.9B project.[i]

The total length of the pipeline was to be 3,893 kilometres, more than 70% of which would have been laid in Turkey alone.[ii] At its eastern end, it was designed to be joined by two feeder pipelines that would have carried gas to it from Azerbaijan through Georgia (the South Caucasus Pipeline), as well as from Iraq through the southern Caspian basin in Iran. Apart from these two countries, Turkmenistan, Egypt and Kazakhstan were considered as the most likely suppliers in the future.[iii]

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Proposed route of the Nabucco Pipeline (Source: enpg.ro)

[i] Nabucco: Modification of feeder line concept. In: Nabucco Gas Pipeline Project, 23. 08. 2010., https://web.archive.org/web/20110714150717/http://www.nabucco-pipeline.com/portal/page/portal/en/press/NewsText?p_item_id=8E79E5BF557DCC2DE040A8C0010178CA (2021.07.12.)

[ii] Route. In: Nabucco Gas Pipeline Project, 11. 06. 2010., https://web.archive.org/web/20110714145834/http://www.nabucco-pipeline.com/portal/page/portal/en/pipeline/route (2021.07.10.)

[iii] Nabucco: Modification of feeder line concept.

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