MILAN (Reuters) - A final decision on whether to double the capacity of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) gas link will be taken early next year, TAP's Managing Director said on Tuesday, adding that the additional gas will come from several Azeri fields.
The European Commission in July signed a memorandum of understanding with Azerbaijan to double imports of Azeri natural gas to at least 20 billion cubic metres a year by 2027.
Ramping up the capacity of the pipeline, which is a section of the Southern Gas Corridor that transports gas to Europe from Azerbaijan, is part of Europe's many efforts to reduce dependence on Russian gas at a time when Moscow is curtailing its supply to the bloc.
At the end of this year or the beginning of next year TAP plans to launch the final phase of its market test during which shippers will request the pipeline for additional long term capacity.
"If there is enough demand for capacity we will start the expansion, which can happen in steps," TAP's Luca Schieppati said on the sidelines of the Gastech conference.
"This process from the request of capacity could last maximum a couple of months," he added.
Schieppati said that the ramping up of the pipeline can be done in steps.
"After 36 months we can deliver the first additional capacity and after up to 60 months we can deliver the doubling of the capacity".
At the same time TAP is also working to make the infrastructure ready to transport hydrogen as well after a feasibility study gave a positive answer.
The next step will be to test the material and the welding of the pipeline in order to be sure that they are compliant with the hydrogen transportation, Luca Schieppati said.
The density of hydrogen is lower than that of gas so to transport the same energy, TAP will need to carry a major quantity of hydrogen.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Francesco Zecchini, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)