BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 31. Romania can act as an important transit country for transport of gas volumes from Azerbaijan, Romania's Minister of Energy Virgil-Daniel Popescu said in an exclusive interview with Trend on the occasion of the Baku Energy Week.
"Romania and the Republic of Azerbaijan have a long tradition in terms of energy cooperation relations. The Strategic Energy Partnership has strengthened and expanded year by year. During last year, the two countries had an extremely consistent bilateral dialogue and signed important documents regarding the implementation of some strategic energy projects. Romania appreciates the active participation of Azerbaijan in joint efforts to strengthen Europe's energy security, especially in this challenging energy context, through its key role in developing the Southern Gas Corridor and its commitment to increase the Azerbaijani gas volumes for the European market," he said.
Popescu noted that a time reference point in the Europe-Azerbaijan relationship was the signing on July, 2022, of the MoU related to a Strategic Energy Partnership which opened a new chapter of the energy cooperation between Europe and Azerbaijan and includes a commitment to double the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor so that, by 2027, at least 20 bcm of Azerbaijani gas can be delivered to the EU annually.
"This will contribute to the diversification goals included in the REPowerEU plan and help Europe to end its dependence on Russian gas. In 2021, Azerbaijan delivered 8 bcm to Europe, and this year the target is 12 bcm. This will represent almost half of the total export, which Azerbaijan plans for this year, at the level of 24.5 bcm. However, Europe-Azerbaijan cooperation is much more extensive, aiming at accelerating the implementation of renewable energy sources and addressing the issue of methane emissions. The EU and Azerbaijan share the ambitious goal of accelerating the development and deployment of renewable energy production and transmission capacity in order to maximize synergies between the EU's transition to a clean energy and Azerbaijan's vast untapped energy potential in the field of renewable energy, especially the offshore energy sector," said the minister.
He went on to add that Europe has largely found its balance and path forward after the shock of the multiple crises it has gone through.
"On this way, the Republic of Azerbaijan has been, is, and will be a reliable partner, which opened a new gas supply path for Europe especially through its essential role in the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor, a project that must be expanded so that more and more countries in Europe to benefit from this valuable gas transport infrastructure," said Popescu.
Next steps for Solidarity Ring
The minister noted that through the gas transport infrastructure it has – BRUA gas pipeline, Iasi- Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline, Trans-Balkan Corridor and the operational gas interconnectors – Romania already functions as an important regional gas supply node.
"Romania transport gas for Ukraine, for Hungary and further for Slovakia, we transport gas for the Republic of Moldova. In addition to the operational gas interconnectors and the BRUA gas pipeline, the reactivation of gas transport with the exploitation of its full potential on the Trans-Balkan Corridor was in Romania's attention. Thus, at the end of 2021, the operator of the national gas transport system TRANSGAZ has completed all the necessary works to ensure the reverse flow at the entrance to the Trans-Balkan Corridor in Romania, so that it can take over the volumes of gas required not only for Romania, but also for other states in the region. Romania supported the Solidarity Ring project and signed in Sofia the Memorandum on encouraging cooperation between transport and system operators from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia and SOCAR. The objective of this Memorandum is to ensure unrestricted and uninterrupted access to natural gas produced in Azerbaijan or available through terminals in Greece or Turkey, thus allowing the provision without difficulty of additional gas volumes to the states in the region. The MoU is open for other states in the region to join, such as the Republic of Turkey, the Republic of Moldova or Ukraine, because interconnection has proven to be not only a measure of solidarity, but a valuable tool for ensuring energy supply and security," he said.
Popescu believes it is important to note that the European Commission supports member states in their diversification efforts.
"This message was expressed by Mrs. Kadri Simson on the occasion of signing this Memorandum, underlining the importance of this document which will provide a framework for the further development of alternative routes for gas supply in the region. Diversification of sources and supply routes is the key to strengthening national and regional energy security. That is why I want to emphasize the importance of the Trans-Balkan Corridor in the current regional energy context. This Gas Corridor, used to its maximum potential through the operationalization of the Solidarity Ring project, can represent an important supply route for many countries in the region. By using the infrastructure of the Trans-Balkan Corridor on its territory, Romania can act as an important transit country for the transport of gas volumes from Azerbaijan, but also from the Turkish or Greek terminals, to many countries in the South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans," he added.
Green Corridor from Caspian Sea to Black Sea
The minister noted that the Agreement between the governments of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary regarding the Partnership in the field of development and transport of green energy is a commitment of Romania for a Green Corridor, in the context of the efforts made by our country to ensure the transition to clean energy by promoting renewable energy sources.
"The construction of the submarine cable as part as green corridor is important and viable not only because a green transport Corridor between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea is being put into practice, but also because in the margin of the energy supply diversification process, it is an opportunity for the entire European continent. In the framework of a study performed by Italian consultant CESI which assessed the possibility and opportunity of building un submarine cable between Romania and Georgia, a number of technical and financial aspects were evaluated and presented during a meeting in Tbilisi. The preliminary results of the study are being analyzed and assessed at the levels of the 4 signatories, including from the point of view of considering these results in the framework of a more extended study that was proposed to be performed and that will go beyond the construction of the submarine cable, assessing the possibility of producing and absorbing green energy in the 4 signatories countries and in Europe," he explained.
Expanding SOCAR’s business in Romania
"We are happy to see that Romania is among the priority directions of SOCAR business development, not only in the area of retail operations, but now also in the transmission of Azerbaijani gas volumes in Romania and to other European markets, via Romania. Until now, SOCAR Romania owns a number of 66 own stations and operates 3 warehouses: Teiuș, Onești and Constanța. SOCAR offers an extensive range of products and services in the field of fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and bitumen trade, becoming one of the important players on the Romanian fuel distribution and petroleum product trading market," said Popescu.
More than that, as the minister recalled, ROMGAZ and SOCAR signed in June, 2022, a MoU through which the companies propose to strengthen energy cooperation relations and to explore new collaboration opportunities in order to implement mutually beneficial projects in the energy field.
"Also, Romania and Azerbaijan proposes to explore, based on an MoU signed in October last year between SOCAR and ROMGAZ companies, the opportunities for the joint development of a liquefied natural gas project in the Black Sea, a project that can support the strategic safety objectives in the supply of natural gas and diversification of sources for Romania, but also the potential of the Republic of Azerbaijan as an important gas supplier for Europe. Romania propose to the SOCAR company to analyze the opportunities to expand the fields of activity in Romania, in the light of the new European paradigm towards obtaining energy from sources with low carbon emissions, by taking into account potential investments in electricity production using natural gas. At the same time, another direction of cooperation of interest for Romania that SOCAR could analyze is the sale of petrochemical products, manufactured at the facilities owned by SOCAR in Azerbaijan and Türkiye, on the Romanian market. In this context, the Romanian Side expressed the interest especially for chemical fertilizers, necessary for the Romanian agricultural sector," he said.
Gas contract between Azerbaijan and Romania
Popescu recalled that ROMGAZ and SOCAR entered into contractual arrangements starting with the beginning of this year.
"Such contractual arrangements formed the basis for a constructive joined work and proved to be a new milestone for strengthening the good cooperation relationship between the two companies. Therefore, we are confident that such cooperation will be extended beyond 2024, not only by entering into new gas supplies contracts but also into other potential projects of mutual interest," he concluded.
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