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Azerbaijan says has gas to fill Nabucco pipeline

February 19, 2009
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BAKU, Azerbaijan—Azerbaijan's state oil monopoly said Thursday that the Caspian country has enough natural gas to fill a pipeline meant to help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian supplies.

The feasibility of the Nabucco pipeline -- which would run from the Caspian via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and end in Austria -- has been questioned by some experts who say there is not enough gas around the Caspian to fill it.

But Khoshbakht Yusifzade, president of Azerbaijan's SOCAR oil monopoly, said the country's gas reserves will make the project a reality. "Azerbaijan has sufficient reserves to fill the Nabucco pipeline," Yusifzade said.

He added that Azerbaijan's gas reserves stand at more than 2 trillion cubic meters.

Azerbaijan produced 23 billion cubic meters of gas in 2008, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said last month that the country would double the gas production in the next few years.

Last year, Azerbaijan also exported 78 million tons of oil to Russia, Georgia, and Europe.

European Union officials and businessmen gathered in Budapest last month to kickstart construction of Nabucco, which the EU and the United States back as a viable alternative to Russian gas supplies to the continent.

Russia supplies Europe with about a quarter of its oil and gas needs.

Industry experts repeatedly noted that the project is economically unsound. Even its backers acknowledged that it will be extremely difficult to find enough gas to fill the pipeline to its annual capacity of 31 billion cubic meters.

Even that amounts to only a small fraction of the gas consumed annually by the European Union. Nabucco's supporters hope that Central Asian countries -- like Turkmenistan -- will join the project at a later stage.

However, Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom currently buys out most of the gas Turkmenistan produces.

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