Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3rd L), Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (2nd L), Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (3rd R) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (2nd R) attend the inaugurating ceremony in Eskisehir, Turkey, June 12, 2018. The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), a key section of Europe's long-delayed Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and a multinational project to bring Azeri natural gas to Europe via Turkey, started operation on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)
ANKARA, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), a key section of Europe's long-delayed Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and a multinational project to bring Azeri natural gas to Europe via Turkey, started operation on Tuesday.
Launched three years ago, the mega project marks the final success of the long-lasting efforts of Turkey to secure its role as an energy transit power between oil and gas rich countries of the Caspian and Europe.
The TANAP is the longest natural gas pipeline in Turkey, the Middle East and Europe, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the inaugurating ceremony.
"We are ready to increase its capacity to 22 billion cubic meters per year if needed," he added.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic were also present at the inaugurating ceremony in the central city of Eskisehir, along with some ministers and executives of energy companies.
"Our country is now one step closer to its vision to become a hub of energy lines thanks to TANAP," Erdogan noted.
For his part, Aliyev said the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will open in two years after TANAP to complete the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and "ensure the energy security of all countries involved in the project."
The SGC consists of three parts: the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) across Azerbaijan and Georgia, the TANAP pipeline across Turkey, and the TAP across Greece and Albania, with an offshore section leading to southern Italy.
The main aim of SGC is to connect the giant Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan to Europe, thus reducing the continent's dependence on Russian gas.
The TANAP, which stretches up to 1,850 km, will run from the Turkish border with Georgia to the Turkey-Greece border to supply natural gas to both Turkey and Europe.
"TANAP is a strategic project for Turkey, Azerbaijan and entire Europe," said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at the ceremony, while Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak hailed the pipeline as "the Silk Road of Energy."
With an investment of around 8.5 billion U.S. dollars, the TANAP will deliver 6 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey and 10 billion to Europe per year.
Late in May, Azerbaijan inaugurated a terminal planned as the starting point of the SGC, the first pipeline that bypasses Russia to transport gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe.
The SGC is seen as an alternative to the TurkishStream gas pipeline designed to bring Russia's gas to Europe via Turkey under the Black Sea.
"The TANAP, together with the SCP and the TAP, is an essential part of the SGC. Its official opening marks a key milestone, as Caspian gas can now flow to Turkey on a commercial basis," said Maros Sefkovic, the European Comission's vice-president in charge of the Energy Union.
Experts say Turkmenistan, Iraq, Iran and energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean countries are expected to join the East-West corridor with TANAP in the future.