By Ruben Meloyan
Georgia suspended on Friday the transit of Russian natural to Armenia through its territory, citing emergency repairs on a key pipeline which officials in Tbilisi said will take several days.
Georgian Energy Minister Aleksandr Khetaguri was reported to say that a section of that pipeline passing through the Azerbaijani-populated Gardabani district has been seriously damaged by increased gas pressure. He attributed it to a seasonal rise in gas consumption in Armenia.
Armenia’s national gas distribution company, ArmRosGazprom (ARG), said it was promptly notified of the supply suspension by the Georgian side. “A group of ARG experts has already been dispatched to Georgia to examine the situation on the ground and, if necessary, provide assistance,” Shushan Sardarian, a spokesman for ARG, told RFE/RL. “Our Georgian partners are assuring us that the repairs will be complete as soon as possible.”
The Caucasus Press news agency cited the Georgian International Oil and Gas Corporation as saying that the pipeline section will be repaired within five days. Unlike Armenia, Georgia imports the bulk of its gas from Azerbaijan, rather than Russia.
According to Sardarian, ARG has enough gas in its underground storage facility north of Yerevan to continue its supplies to domestic individual and corporate consumers in the meantime. “We have repeatedly managed to ensue continued gas supplies in such situations in the past,” she said.
Armenia was unable to import Russian gas for ten days in January 2006 due to an explosion on a pipeline in southern Russia. The underground gas reserves allowed it to avoid a serious energy crisis at the time. Gas is the main source of winter heating for Armenian households and generates roughly one third of the country’s electricity.
Armenia can now also guard against such emergencies by importing gas from neighboring Iran. The final Armenian section of a gas pipeline connecting the two countries was inaugurated in December.