BAKU, Azerbaijan, December 11. Azerbaijan's current efforts for Europe are emerging as a highly effective strategy to address the escalating energy crisis in the region. More and more countries are getting on board with this, and there's a rising interest in teaming up with Azerbaijan. By signing and getting behind strategic partnership agreements with nine EU member states, Azerbaijan has locked in relations with a whopping one-third of all EU countries already.
Serbia and Bulgaria have not just stood by either. On December 10, the Serbia-Bulgaria Gas Interconnector was officially inaugurated in Niš. The newly established gas pipeline will link up the current Serbian network in Niš with the Bulgarian network in the capital Sofia, covering a distance of 109 km on the Serbian side. Boasting a pipe diameter of 700 mm and a maximum pressure of 55 bar, its capacity will facilitate the annual transfer of 1.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas - equivalent to 60 percent of Serbia's total annual consumption.
In addition to Niš, the pipeline will incorporate three other gas metering and regulation stations in Bela Palanka, Pirot, and Dimitrovgrad. This setup will enable these three cities and regions of Serbia—comprising citizens, schools, hospitals, and businesses—to access gas supply for heating and industrial production.
It will enhance the diversification of energy sources in Serbia and the Western Balkan region, providing Serbia with a more secure and stable supply from various gas network systems, particularly from Azerbaijan.
As President Ilham Aliyev said during the inauguration ceremony, the projects initiated and being implemented by Azerbaijan have greatly redrawn the energy map of Europe and Asia, or rather, Eurasia.
“The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Supsa oil pipelines are delivering Azerbaijani oil to the markets of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions today. The Southern Gas Corridor, a huge infrastructure project with a length of 3,500 kilometers, makes a huge contribution to European energy security. It is no coincidence that the European Commission and its senior officials value Azerbaijan as a reliable partner and pan-European gas supplier. I must also say, and I am sure that my friend Rumen can confirm these words, that our gas supplies to Bulgaria started two years ago. In 2021, 270 million cubic meters of gas were supplied. A little more than 500 million cubic meters were supplied last year. This year, this number will be close to 1 billion cubic meters,” President Ilham Aliyev said.
Just recently, Azerbaijan and Serbia put pen to paper on several crucial documents regarding natural gas supply. And this is not just about gas - it extends to the potential of delivering LNG to Serbia. The deal also covers cooperation with Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company (SOCAR) on gas storage facilities, exploring involvement in the company's gas trading operations, and joining forces to build natural gas-fired power plants.
This country is now Azerbaijan's new ally in reshaping the European gas market. With an annual gas supply of up to 400 million cubic meters to be supplied to Serbia, Azerbaijan is reaching out to 9 countries in total. This stands as clear proof of Azerbaijan's growing role as a trustworthy energy partner and its increasing impact on ensuring energy security.
Serbia’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Dubravka Djedović Handanović, personally thanked President Ilham Aliyev for the fact that the sides were able to agree on all the details in a very short time, and expressed confidence that in the future, we will be able to provide additional supplies. She also pointed out, following the ceremony, that Sofia may triple the current supply of gas from Azerbaijan starting from 2037.
Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev hailed Azerbaijan as a reliable partner in all aspects during his speech at the launch ceremony.
“President Ilham Aliyev was also present at the launch ceremony of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria. Thanks to this interconnector, Bulgaria has finally started to receive gas from Azerbaijan. I would like to express my gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev, who has demonstrated that Baku is strictly adhering to all agreements concluded 10 years ago, despite the changing geopolitical environment. I reiterate at every European level meeting that Azerbaijan is a reliable partner, and I believe that we will continue working together in this mutually beneficial manner,” he said.
Azerbaijan laid down the infrastructure groundwork, making it possible for Serbia and other Balkan countries to consider importing energy resources from the Caspian. The Southern Gas Corridor, one of the continent's major infrastructure projects, has fundamentally reshaped Europe's energy landscape. In the past year, the SGC kicked off gas transit to consumers through a new route, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria.
In 2021, Azerbaijan's gas supplies to Europe hit 8 billion cubic meters, and by 2022, they had already climbed to 11 billion cubic meters. The goal for this year is to further elevate gas exports to the region to 12 billion cubic meters. Overall, Azerbaijani gas is anticipated to reach 24.5 billion cubic meters on the global market in 2023, with nearly half of this volume designated for Europe. Azerbaijan plans to expand the reach of its gas supplies from 6 to a minimum of 10 countries. The numbers speak for themselves.
And now, Serbia is hopping on board with this initiative. While the Shah Daniz gas field has been the sole source for the SGC until now, several new gas fields in Azerbaijan are gearing up for production. This will not only diversify our sources but also bolster the supply volumes.
Now, with the substantial efforts Azerbaijan has invested in developing and modernizing crucial gas infrastructure under President Ilham Aliyev's leadership, Europe can start reaping the benefits, and the daunting energy crisis does not seem as unsolvable. President Ilham Aliyev's forward-thinking energy policy, initiated in 2020 with the launch of the SGC project, is proving itself to be not just one of the ways but perhaps the most successful and fitting solution to assist Europe during these challenging times.