Turkey set to buy stake in giant Azeri gas field as European interest dwindles

By bne IntelliNews March 3, 2014

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French oil major Total is in talks over a potential sale of its stake in the Shah Deniz gas field to Botas. The deal would give the Turkish state pipeline operator a stake in the giant Azeri field, which is a key component in Europe's push to reduce energy dependence on Russia.

Total plans to sell its stake in the Caspian offshore project as part of its strategy of exiting projects where it holds a minority stake, according to sources quoted by Reuters. The deal would allow the French company to focus on Abershon, another Azeri field in which it holds a 40% stake. A spokesperson for Botas confirmed the company is in talks over a potential acquisition.

Shah Deniz, which is located around 70km from Baku off the Caspian coast, is Azerbaijan's largest natural gas field. According to lead operator BP, the field is one of the world's largest gas-condensate fields, holding more than 1 trillion cubic metres (cm) of gas.

Since the demise of the EU's Nabucco pipeline project to tap directly into Caspian resources, Shah Deniz has become a key component of the Southern Corridor project, which aims to diversify European gas suppliers. Starting in 2019, the project is set to ship 10bn cm of gas to Europe via the planned TANAP pipeline running to the Turkey/Greece border. However, European ownership in the field is dwindling.

The Shah Deniz consortium currently consists of BP - with 28.8%, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) - 16.7%, and Statoil (15.5%). Total, Lukoil and NICO each control 10%, while Turkey's state-owned TPAO has 9%. Statoil reduced the overall interest held by European partners in December, when it sold a 10% stake to SOCAR and BP in a $1.45bn deal.

A final investment decision on the second phase development was signed the same month, paving the way for investment of around $28bn to expand the field. Gas from the second phase development is expected to reach Turkey in 2018 and European markets the following year. Shah Deniz II will add around 16bn cm of gas per year to the 9bn cm currently being produced by the first phase of the field.

The December agreement also applied to related pipeline infrastructure. To get the gas to European markets, the existing South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) through Azerbaijan and Georgia will be expanded, and the Trans Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) built across Turkey. That will be met by the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) across Greece, Albania and into Italy.

However, the project will also feed Turkey's huge thirst for energy. Shah Deniz will feed 16bn cm per year into the network, with Turkey drawing 6bn cm before sending the remainder onwards.

Botas is already one of the shareholders in the pipeline, and is expected to increase its stake this year. The final roster of TANAP partners is expected to feature SOCAR with a 68% stake, Botas (20%) and BP (12%). Officials have said the project is "crucial" for Ankara.

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