TBILISI (RFE/RL)–Georgia suspended the transit of Russian natural gas through Georgian territory on Thursday following landslides that reportedly damaged the pipeline carrying it to neighboring Armenia.
Georgian media reports said the landslides caused by heavy rains occurred in a mountainous area of the country close to the Russian border. The head of Georgia’s National Oil and Gas Corporation, Zurab Jangjava, was quoted as saying that repairs on the damaged section of the pipeline have already started and will take between two and three days.
Armenia’s national gas distribution company, ArmRosGazprom (ARG), confirmed the information and said the disruption will not affect gas supplies to domestic individual and corporate consumers. ARG spokeswoman Shushan Sardarian said the company is now using gas from an underground storage facility north of Yerevan.
“Gas supplies within Armenia’s domestic market are continuing without any restrictions at the expense of gas stored in the underground storage facility,” Sardarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We will impose no supply restrictions on our clients.”
“We have repeatedly been in such force-majeure situations before,” she said. “And if it wasn’t for these reports, our consumers would not even know that gas is not entering the country.”
The storage facility already enabled Armenia to avoid gas rationing during similar accidents on Georgian and Russian sections of the pipelined reported in the past. It was unable to import Russian gas for ten days in January 2006 due to a pipeline explosion in southern Russia.
The landlocked country’s energy security was significantly boosted in late 2008 with the construction of a gas pipeline from neighboring Iran. It began importing modest volumes of Iranian gas, mainly for generating and exporting electricity, in May 2009.
In Sardarian’s words, ARG might use Iranian gas for domestic consumption if need be. “With a second gas pipeline, we feel more secure,” she said.