Original plans for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) included crossing a national park. But a thorough impact assessment process resulted in successful project planning integrating biodiversity concerns into project management and design.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)
- A planned natural gas pipeline running from Thessaloniki Greece, through Albania, across the Adriatic Sea to Southern Italy
- The project, designed to create new gas transportation option from the Caspian and Middle East regions into European markets
- The pipeline has a total length of 520 km
- The pipeline will cross varied terrains with elevations up to 1800m in the Albanian mountains, and includes a 115 km offshore section, with depths up to 820m
- Such lengths and variations in terrain present unique challenges for environmental management
The planned natural gas pipeline starts in Thessaloniki Greece and terminates in Southern Italy. The routing presented TAP with a number of environmental and technical challenges due to the topographic complexity of the area: the project would need to contend with difficult terrain crossing the Albanian mountains, construction on steep hills, and through areas at risk of erosion and landslides.
Additionally, the initial routing of TAP sent the pipeline through Hotova National Park in Albania as well as the Natura 2000 site, an EU protected sea grass habitat in Italy. This route was technically feasible, but with considerable environmental impact which would require construction of 27km of pipeline and 10km of new access roads in the park. To make sure the optimal routing was identified, TAP conducted route assessment surveys in Albania, Italy and offshore in the Adriatic Sea.
The Hotova National Park protects one of the best preserved and most continuous Macedonian fir forests. It is an area considered of high biodiversity value supporting a wide range of habitats for plants and animals and high species richness, including four critically endangered species of vegetation and 15 species of mammals which are globally threatened. In addition to the biological richness, the region also has important cultural, historical and economic significant for the local peoples.
According to TAP's Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) policy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policy, activities in and in the immediate vicinity of special important and protected areas require special attention. This is usually dealt with in the context of an impact assessment. Ideally, a project’s impact assessment process should begin as early as possible and run in parallel with the engineering studies. Most jurisdictions, including Albania, now have comprehensive legislation requiring environmental impact assessments. Also several international finance institutions require a thorough evaluation of alternatives to avoid protected areas.In addition to the surveys of identifying the optimal route, TAP also took measures to reduce environmental and social impacts, and to establish a participatory process to work with authorities and the local populations. Seven possible alternative routes were evaluated, and this proved to be success. The route was changed, avoiding the Hotova National Park and also resulted in making the pipeline about 30 km shorter.The route identification in Albania is only one stage in the larger impact assessment process. The next steps include fine tuning of the route and conducting a detailed environmental and social impact assessment where further in depth field work will be completed. This will allow the project to identify and assess the specific environmental impacts and propose measures to minimise and mitigate impacts, including, for example, the establishment of a TAP biodiversity action plan.For more information about TAP's HSE and CSR policy see: