TAP enters critical period

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is an 878 km pipeline that will transport gas from the Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan through the European section of the Southern Gas Corridor, a 3,500 km system providing a gateway to deliver up to 10 billion m3/a of new Caspian gas supplies to Europe from 2020.

Gas is first transported from Shah Deniz II, a US$28 billion subsea development in the Caspian Sea, via the 692 km South Caucasus Pipeline, connecting to the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) at the Turkish-Georgian border. From there, product is moved more than 1,800 km to Kipoi, Greece, where TAP begins, with the gas is then transported to Italy’s gas transportation network in the south of the country, via Albania.

Offshore section

In March, pipelaying commenced on the offshore section of the pipeline, offshore Albania, with the first pipes successfully pulled ashore. The pipeline head reached kilometre point 0, where the offshore joins with the onshore section.

For this operation, TAP’s engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) contractor for the offshore section, Saipem, used its pipelay barge Castoro 10. Steel pipes were welded together onboard the vessel, which was located 1.4 km from the beach.

The welds were then tested and the pipeline was lowered onto the seabed. The first 1.8 km of welded pipe was pulled ashore at the landfall near Fier, Albania.

Saipem’s 139 m long and 36 m wide vessel subsequently continued to lay pipes in the shallow waters off Albania, which will be followed by fibreoptic cable installation and backfilling offshore and at the landfall.

The construction of the offshore section, which stretches 105 km between Albania and Italy, started in October 2018. The pipes are being laid on the Adriatic seabed: 37 km in Albanian waters, 25 km in Italian waters and 43 km in international waters.

The deepest point of the pipeline will be more than 810 m beneath sea level. Approximately 9,000 36 inches (915 mm) diameter pipes, will be used, weighing approximately 100,000 t in total.

A view of the landfall from offshore.

Onshore section

Onshore pipelaying work has been undertaken in ‘spreads’ at several locations across the entire pipeline route, rather than starting at one end and working towards the other. The onshore section of TAP comprises approximately 773 km of pipeline in total – 550 km in Greece, 215 km in Albania and 8 km in Italy.

The onshore part of the pipeline in Greece and Albania has a diameter of 48 inches (1,200 mm); the diameter of the offshore segment and Italy’s onshore section has a diameter of 36 inches (915 mm). The steel pipe wall is 17.5 to 31 mm thick, with four difference classes of pipe used.

The pipeline reaches approximately 2,100 m above sea level at its highest point in the Albanian mountains. It crosses nine mountain peaks more than 500 m high and, at its steepest slope, was installed on a 40° gradient.

To minimise any adverse effect on the environment during construction, special care was taken including using trenchless techniques such as horizontal directional drilling to cross roads and rivers.

The actual construction activity at each of the three ‘spreads’ is lasted approximately three months, with additional time required for reinstatement, which sees the pipeline buried more than 1 m underground, rendering it invisible.

As of May 2019, more than 98 per cent of the onshore pipeline and 87 per cent of the overall construction had been completed, with the entire construction phase expected to be complete in 2019. The final project commissioning phase, before the pipeline becomes operational, is due to take place in the second half of2019.

The aboveground facilities will comprise two compressor stations, block valve stations spaced at 30 km intervals to stop gas flow during routine maintenance or in an emergency, and the pipeline receiving terminal in Italy.

Two compressor stations – one near Kipoi, Greece and the other near Fier, Albania – will be used to ensure gas transportation through the pipeline.

To upgrade to a capacity of 20 billion m3 in the future it would be necessary to construct two new compressor stations at Bilisht, Albania and Serres, Greece.

The pipeline installed at the landfall.

Importance to the EU

Over the past few years, TAP has successfully established several strategic partnerships across the European Union (EU) while also receiving the highest political support.

In order to successfully build a pipeline across a continent, substantial resources, outstanding technical expertise, exceptional safety standards and sound financing are required, as well as strong partnerships.

At a geopolitical level, the strategic partnership between the EU and TAP has been evidenced by the strong support from the European Commission, which promotes the interest of the EU by proposing and enforcing legislation and implementing policies and the EU budget, and the European Parliament, an elected EU body with legislative, supervisory, and budgetary responsibilities.

At the national government level, all three countries the pipeline passes through confirmed their joint commitment to TAP in 2013. This confirmation was a trilateral signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement, which was then approved by each country’s parliament.

A priority of the EU’s energy strategy is the developing the Southern Gas Corridor to increase the flexibility and safety of Europe’s energy supply.

The EU’s support of the project recognises that TAP will be a vital component of this strategy

, with the new transport pipeline allowing natural gas from fields in the Caspian sea to flow into Europe’s energy markets.

Under guidelines for Trans-European energy infrastructure, the European Commission, Parliament and Council awarded TAP a Project of Common Interest (PCI) status – which allows projects to benefit from accelerated permitting procedures and funding – in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

This identification, three times in a row, formalises the highest political support from the EU for the TAP project and implementation.

In addition to the PCI status, TAP was named as a Project of Energy Community Interest, which is only designated to projects that have the highest positive impact to the largest possible number of contracting parties.

Deliveries to the European market from TAP are aimed for 2020.

This article was featured in October Edition of Pipelines International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the Trans Adriatic Pipeline website.

If you have news you would like featured in Pipelines International contact Managing Editor Chloe Jenkins at cjenkins@gs-press.com.au

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