Nabucco pipeline

Nabucco pipeline
Nabucco pipeline

Location of Nabucco pipeline
Country Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria
General direction east–west
From Ahiboz, Turkey
Passes through İnegöl, Yuluce, Kırklareli, Kofcas, Lozenets, Oryahovo, Port of Bechet, Nădlac, Dolj, Mehedinti, Caras-Severin, Timiş, and Arad
To Baumgarten an der March, Austria
General information
Type natural gas
Partners OMV
Operator Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH
Expected 2017
Technical information
Length 4,042 km (2,512 mi)
Maximum discharge 31 billion m3 (1.1 Tcf) per year
Diameter 56 in (1,422 mm)

The Nabucco pipeline (also referred as Turkey–Austria gas pipeline) is a proposed natural gas pipeline from Erzurum in Turkey to Baumgarten an der March in Austria diversifying natural gas suppliers and delivery routes for Europe. The pipeline attempts to lessen European dependence on Russian energy. The project is backed by several European Union states and the United States and is seen as rival to the Gazprom-Eni South Stream pipeline project. At the same time, there are some doubts concerning viability of supplies. The main supplier is expected to be Iraq in cooperation with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and possibly Egypt.[1]

Preparations for the Nabucco project started in 2002 and the intergovernmental agreement between Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria was signed on 13 July 2009. The project is developed by the consortium of six companies. If built, the pipeline is expected to be operational by 2017 and it will carry 31 billion cubic metres (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas per year.



The Nabucco project is backed by the European Union and the United States[2][3][4][5] In the Trans-European Networks - Energy (TEN - E) programme, the Nabucco pipeline is designated as of strategic importance.[6][7][8] An objective of the project is to connect the European Union better to the natural gas sources in the Caspian Sea and the Middle East regions.[9][10][11] The project has been driven by the intention to diversify its current energy supplies, and to lessen European dependence on Russian energy—the biggest supplier of gas to Europe.[12][13] The Russia–Ukraine gas disputes have been one of the factors driving the search for alternative suppliers, sources, and routes.[13][14] Moreover, as per European Commission, Europe's gas consumption is expected to increase from 502 billion cubic metres, in 2005, to 815 billion cubic metres in 2030 which would mean Russia alone would not be able to meet the demand.[15]

According to Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, the Nabucco pipeline would be more effective in increasing Europe's energy security than the South Stream project as it increases the number of gas suppliers.[16]


Preparations for the Nabucco project started in February 2002 when first talks took place between Austrian OMV and Turkish BOTAŞ. In June 2002, five companies (OMV of Austria, MOL Group of Hungary, Bulgargaz of Bulgaria, Transgaz of Romania and BOTAŞ of Turkey) signed a protocol of intention to construct the Nabucco pipeline. The protocol followed by the cooperation agreement in October 2002. The name Nabucco comes from the same famous opera of Giuseppe Verdi, that the five partners had listened to at the Vienna State Opera after this meeting.[17] In December 2003, the European Commission awarded a grant in the amount of 50% of the estimated total eligible cost of the feasibility study including market analysis, and technical, economic and financial studies. On 28 June 2005, the joint venture agreement was signed by five Nabucco partners. The ministerial statement on the Nabucco pipeline was signed on 26 June 2006 in Vienna.[18] On 12 September 2007, Jozias van Aartsen was nominated by the European Commission as the Nabucco project coordinator.[19] In February 2008, German RWE became a shareholder of the consortium.[20]

On 11 June 2008, the first contract to supply gas from Azerbaijan through the Nabucco pipeline to Bulgaria was signed.[21] The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev confirmed on 29 January 2009, that Azerbaijan was planning to at least double its gas production in the coming five years to supply the pipeline.[22] On 12 April 2009, the Minister of Energy of Turkey Hilmi Güler confirmed that Turkey is ready to sign a deal, provided that Turkey gets 15% of the natural gas to be carried through the Nabucco pipeline.[23]

On 27 January 2009, the Nabucco Summit held in Budapest.[24] On 24–25 April 2009, the Nabucco pipeline was discussed, among other energy issues, at the high-level energy summit in Sofia,[25] and on 8 May 2009, at the Southern Corridor Summit in Prague.[26]

The intergovernmental agreement between Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria was signed by five prime ministers on 13 July 2009 in Ankara.[27] The European Union was represented at the ceremony by the President Jose Manuel Barroso and the Commissioner for Energy Andris Piebalgs, and the United States was represented by Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar and Ranking Member of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Senator Richard Lugar.[28][29] Hungary ratified the agreement on 20 October 2009.[30] Bulgaria ratified the agreement on 3 February 2010.[8][31] Romania ratified the agreement on 16 February 2010.[32] Turkey became the final country ratifying the agreement on 4 March 2010.[33][34]


The 3,893 kilometres (2,419 mi) long pipeline will run from Ahiboz in Turkey via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary to Baumgarten an der March, a major natural gas hub in Austria.[35] In Ahiboz, it will be joined with two feeder lines, one connecting to Georgia in the north (South Caucasus Pipeline), and the other connecting to Iraq (pipeline to be built) in the southeast.[36] It could be fed also from the Tabriz–Ankara pipeline. 2,730 kilometres (1,700 mi) of the pipeline will be laid in Turkey, 412 kilometres (256 mi) in Bulgaria, 469 kilometres (291 mi) in Romania, 384 kilometres (239 mi) in Hungary, and 47 kilometres (29 mi) in Austria.[35]

From Turkey the Nabucco pipeline will enter Bulgaria and after running 76 kilometres (47 mi) in parallel to the existing gas system will connect to the Bulgarian national gas network at the compressor station of village Lozenets in Yambol Province.[37] After crossing the Balkan Range the pipeline will head 116.3 kilometres (72.3 mi) in a northwesterly direction. After reaching the national northern half-ring it will run 133 kilometres (83 mi) in parallel to the existing East-West gas line and continue 86.5 kilometres (53.7 mi) to northwest before reaching the Danube at Oryahovo. In Bulgaria, Nabucco will have interconnections with the national gas network and will have two off-take systems, compressor stations and pig stations.[38]

In Romania, the pipeline will be crossing into the country under the Danube. The route on the Romanian territory will go from south-west to north-west, its south-western starting point being located at the Danube-crossing point upstream the Port of Bechet, and the north-western end point being located north of Nădlac. The pipe will follow the south western border of Romania and will travel through the counties of Dolj, Mehedinti, Caras-Severin, Timiş, and Arad. The pipeline will cross 11 protected sites, two national parks, three natural reserves, and 57 watercourses, namely major rivers such as: Jiu, Coşuştea, Cerna, Bela Reca, Timiş, Bega, and Mureş, as well as their tributaries. The terrain is rockier in Romania and mainly constituted of limestone. This section is 469 kilometres (291 mi) long.[35][39]

Polish gas company PGNiG is studying the possibility of building a link from the Nabucco gas pipeline to Poland.[40]

Technical features

In early years after completion the deliveries are expected to be between 4.5 and 13 billion cubic metres (160×10^9 and 460×10^9 cu ft) per year. Around 2020, the supply volume is expected to reach 31 billion cubic metres (1.1×10^12 cu ft) per year, of which up to 16 billion cubic metres (570×10^9 cu ft) will go to Baumgarten. The diameter of the pipeline would be 56 inches (1,400 mm).[41]

In the EU territory, the pipeline is to be exempt from regulated third party access, including tariff regulation, for 25 years.[9][10][11]


The Nabucco project is included in the EU Trans-European Energy Network programme and a feasibility study for the Nabucco pipeline has been performed under an EU project grant. The front end engineering and design (FEED) services of the pipeline, including the overall management of the local FEED contractors, the review of the technical feasibility study, route confirmation, preparation of the design basis, hydraulic studies, overall SCADA and telecommunications, GIS and preparation of tender packages for the next phase, is managed by UK-based consultancy Penspen.[42]

According to Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, construction of the pipeline is scheduled begin in 2013 and it would be operational by 2017.[43][44]


The pipeline, initially estimated at €7 billion, is in 2011 estimated to cost €12–15 billion. The final investment decision is expected in 2012.[45]The sources of financing of the Nabucco project are not decided yet. As a commercial project, it will be financed 30% by the project's partners and the rest by commercial financial instruments. The European Commission has awarded an EU project grant in the amount of 50% of the estimated total eligible cost of the feasibility study[9][10][11] and has also decided to allocate €200 million from the European Economic Recovery Plan.[46] To receive this financing, this grant should be committed by the end 2010.[46]

At the Nabucco Summit held in Budapest on 27 January 2009, the heads of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) confirmed, that they are prepared to provide financial backing for the project.[24] On 5 February 2010, the EIB vice-president Mathias Kollatz-Ahnensaid that Nabucco consortium is seeking up to €2 billion (20–25% of costs) financing from the bank. The EIB is ready to participate in the financing of this project; however, the precondition is that the partner countries should legally approve the pipeline's transit in their countries.[47]

In September 2010, the consortium signed an agreement with EIB, EBRD, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), according to which the banks will conduct due diligence for a financing package of €4 billion. Up to €2 billion will be signed by the EIB, up to €1.2 billion by the EBRD, and up to €800 million by the IFC.[48]

Supply sources

The main suppliers for Nabucco are considered to be Iraq, Azerbaijan, and potentially Turkmenistan.[36] At the first stage, 10 billion cubic metres (350 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year is expected from Iraq.[49] Iraqi gas would be imported via the Arab Gas Pipeline (extension to be built) from the Ekas field.[50] MOL has acquired 10% stake in Pearl Petroleum Company Limited, which holds legal rights in Khor Mor and Chamchamal gas-condensate fields in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.[51] According to Iraqi deputy oil minister Ahmed al-Shamma, Iraq gas will not be necessarily delivered via Nabucco pipeline, as after arriving to Turkey it may feed also alternative projects which have available transport capacities. Export to Europe would start only if new gasfields are found, as associated gas is not enough to ensure stable gas supplies.[52]

In Azerbaijan, the second stage of the Shah Deniz gas field comes on-stream in 2016. There is an agreement for 8 billion cubic metres (280×10^9 cu ft) of natural gas per year with further expansion.[21][22][53] Turkmenistan would provide for Nabucco 10 billion cubic metres (350×10^9 cu ft) of gas per year.[33][54][55][56] The natural gas could be transported through Iran or across the Caspian Sea via the planned Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline. OMV and RWE have set up a joint venture, named the Caspian Energy Company, to carry out research for a gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea.[57] In the long term, Kazakhstan may become a supplier providing natural gas from the Northern Caspian reserves through the planned Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline.[58]

Egypt could provide 3–5 billion cubic metres (110×10^9–180×10^9 cu ft) of natural gas through the Arab Gas Pipeline.[53] Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged Egypt to export natural gas to Europe via the Nabucco pipeline.[59] Iran has also proposed to supply gas to Nabucco pipeline and this was backed by Turkey; however, due the political conditions this is rejected by the EU and the United States.[3][4][60][61][62] There is also an option, that Nabucco could be fed with Russian natural gas through the Blue Stream pipeline.[53][62]

Project company

The project is developed by the Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH. The managing director of the company is Reinhardt Mitschek.[53] The shareholders of the company are:

  • OMV (Austria)
  • MOL (Hungary)
  • Transgaz (Romania)
  • Bulgargaz (Bulgaria)
  • BOTAŞ (Turkey)
  • RWE (Germany)[9][10][11]

Each of the shareholders holds 16.67% of the shares.[63]

French company GDF Suez has applied for joining the Nabucco project.[64] According to the Nabucco pipeline shareholder RWE "the door remains open for France".[64][65] Also other shareholder OMV has reacted positively to the GDF Suex interest.[66] However, according to GDF Suez the project is "very complex and involves many transit countries", which may decrease its interest to join the project.[67]

In different times, also the Polish gas company PGNiG and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic had shown interest to join the project.[68][69][70] Kazakhstan has also indicated its readiness to join the project.[71]

Nabucco International is the owner of the five national Nabucco companies responsible for the operation and maintenance of the pipeline in their respective countries.[9][10][11]

Alternative projects

In 2006, Gazprom proposed an alternative project, in competition with the Nabucco pipeline, that would involve constructing a second section of the Blue Stream pipeline beneath the Black Sea to Turkey, and extending this up through Bulgaria and Serbia to western Hungary.[72] In 2007, the South Stream project through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Austria and Italy was proposed. It is seen as a rival to the Nabucco pipeline.[8][73][74][75] On 10 March 2010, CEO of Eni, a partner in South Stream, Paolo Scaroni proposed to merge Nabucco and South Stream projects to "reduce investments, operational costs and increase overall returns".[76][77] This proposal was rejected by energy minister of Russia Sergei Shmatko saying that "South Stream is more competitive than Nabucco" and that "Nabucco and South Stream are far from being competitors".[78] Also OMV has said that there are no ongoing discussions about merging the projects.[79]

Ukraine has proposed the White Stream pipeline, connecting Georgia to the Ukrainian gas transport network.[80] Also the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and the Interconnector Turkey–Greece–Italy projects are seen as competing projects.[81] According to the project's European Coordinator Jozias van Aartsen all five projects are competing with each other for the access to Azerbaijani Shah Deniz gas supplies.[6] According to Turkish energy minister Taner Yıldız Turkey supports combining Nabucco and Interconnector Turkey–Greece–Italy projects.[82]

Competitor to Nabucco, and to pipelines generally, is liquefied natural gas. Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania nad Hungary are developing Azerbaijan–Georgia–Romania Interconnector project, which is proposed to to transport Azerbaijani gas to Europe in form of LNG.[83] Increasing availability of LNG from large gas-producing countries in the Middle-East and Africa stresses the economic viability of pipelines.[84]

Controversial aspects

Economic and political aspects

The Nabucco pipeline will supply only a limited number of countries in South-East and Central Europe.[15] The project has been criticized as uneconomic because there is no guarantee that there will be sufficient gas supplies to make it profitable.[13] As of January 2010 only Azerbaijan is a confirmed supplier, and its Caspian Shah Deniz production is estimated at 8 billion cubic metres (280×10^9 cu ft) per year, of which 7 billion cubic metres (250×10^9 cu ft) is already purchased by Russia in advance, while Nabucco's project proposion requires 31 billion cubic metres (1.1×10^12 cu ft). Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has stated "speaking about the Nabucco pipeline without Iran's participation would amount to nothing but a pipeline void of gas". Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made similar remarks.[85] The deputy chairman of the Russia's State Duma Energy Committee Ivan Grachev has questioned the viability of the Nabucco project and sees it as an attempt to put pressure on Russia.[86] This is supported by the Russia's gas deals with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which by some observers has been seen as attempt to reserve potential Nabucco supplies.[87][88] Azerbaijan has stated that the gas will be transported only through those routes, which would be commercially most attractive.[81] Also the opening of the Central Asia – China gas pipeline and the agreements to build the South Stream pipeline has been seen as the end of Nabucco project.[89]

However, RWE has claimed that the transportation of natural gas through the Nabucco pipeline will be cheaper than through South Stream or other alternative pipelines. According to RWE, the transportation of thousand cubic meters of gas from Shah Deniz field to Europe will cost through the Nabucco pipeline €77 versus €106 through the South Stream pipeline.[81] Note : this value was quoted before the cost of the pipeline was doubled from the initial €8 billion to 12-15 billion in 2011.

To counter claims of economic ramifications of the pipeline's selected route, BOTAŞ has introduced a scheme to enhance the positive economic impact on communities along the pipeline’s route. BOTAŞ contracted Tamila Ahmadov, an Azeri oil political and economic expert, to lead the planning of realizing and sustaining such benefits. Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, however, has already voiced Iran's firm objection to any such work within its borders, limiting the planned economic value of the program to benefit Turkey and better-off European countries.[citation needed]

Human rights in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is ranked by Freedom House as one of the least free countries in the world.[90] International non-governmental organizations have criticized the EU and the international financial institutions to engage in the pipeline project with a country in which the regime does not have a transparent gas revenues management[91] and violates human and civil rights.[92][93]

According to these organizations, Turkmenistan's involvement in the project may contribute to keeping this country one of the most repressive regimes in the world through weakening the EU pressure on Turkmenistan's government to observe human rights and strengthening the regime financially when it sells gas to Europe.[94][95]

Fossil fuels

Some NGOs criticize the EIB and EBRD for their willingness to finance a fossil fuel project, claiming that it goes against the November 2007 resolution on trade and climate change passed in the European Union Parliament.[96] The resolution calls for "the discontinuation of public support via export credit agencies and public investment banks, for fossil fuel projects."[97] Non-governmental organizations also show disapproval, due to the public banks decision to be lenient to Turkmenistan Human and civil rights conditions.[98]

Security aspects

Concerns have been raised about the safety of the project. The pipeline will cross through unstable area of Turkey's South East region. In recent years Kurdistan Workers' Party claimed responsibility for blowing up the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline and the Tabriz–Ankara pipeline in Turkey.[99][100] Gas for the Nabucco pipeline coming from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will have to pass near areas of instability in the South Caucasus.[101]

See also

  • Turkey–Greece pipeline
  • Greece–Italy pipeline
  • South Caucasus Pipeline
  • Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline
  • New Europe Transmission System
  • Nord Stream
  • Persian Pipeline
  • 2009 Russia–Ukraine gas dispute
  • Russia–Ukraine gas dispute of 2005–2006
  • Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline
  • Mozdok – Makhachkala – Kazi Magomed pipeline


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