Azerbaijan's state-owned oil and gas company said this week work on the proposed Trans-Anatolian Pipeline across Turkey will begin this year.
Vagif Aliyev, head of the foreign investment department of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, laid out the timetable Monday, the Anatolian News Agency reported.
"Work has begun on the preparation of a feasibility study of the TANAP project," Aliyev said. "It is planned to begin the actual work by the autumn of 2012."
The TANAP pipeline is envisioned by SOCAR and its partner, Turkish energy company BOTAS, is to initially transport 16 billion cubic meters of gas per year, with about 6 billion cubic meters of the total to be tapped by Turkey.
The rest would be transported to Europe as part of a new Southern Corridor route designed to provide European consumers secure access to Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea natural gas fields, thus breaking their dependence on Russian gas sent via Ukraine.
The 2,400-mile, $5 billion stand-alone pipeline would transit gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II fields across Turkey. It could also be connected to the proposed Nabucco pipeline project, which is designed to carry gas from the Caspian region and the Middle East through Turkey to Europe.
The deal to build the Trans-Anatolian pipeline was signed in December by Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz and Natiq Aliyev, Azerbaijan's industry and energy minister.
Others would be allowed to join the consortium once the project is under way, the energy ministers said, adding plans are to begin to start construction as soon as possible this year and complete the pipeline by late 2017.
SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev said last week all the foreign oil companies working in Azerbaijan -- including Britain's BP, Norway's Statoil, France's Total and others -- have expressed an interest in acquiring a stake in the project, the Azerbaijan Business Center reported on its Web site.
"Some foreign countries, Ukraine, for example, have also expressed such a wish," Abdullayev said. "However, the preference will be given to the companies having their own gas volumes for transportation."
SOCAR, BP and Statoil are also members of the consortium controlling the Shah Deniz II field. They are expected to choose a natural gas route to Europe by mid-2013.
The consortium is considering three possible export routes extending beyond Turkey. They include the EU-backed Nabucco Pipeline route through Central Europe; the BP-proposed South East Europe Pipeline, which mostly uses existing lines in Central Europe and Croatia; and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which would transit through Albania.
Some discord between SOCAR and BOTAS over the project became evident last week, however. The Azeri news service Turan reported unnamed Turkish officials as saying BOTAS is seeking to become a 50-50 partner in the project.
Those reports prompted Abdullayev to deny that either country has raised the issue of changing their ownership shares.
"Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a memorandum on the size of their shares in TANAP, and according to the deal Azerbaijan owns 80 percent of the shares, while Turkey`s stake constitutes 20 percent," Abdullayev told News.az, citing the negotiations with the foreign companies to also become partners.
The size of their shares would be determined once Azerbaijan and Turkey sign an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of the pipeline, he added.