Albania vows to rescue privatization of state oil company Albpetrol, diversify energy market

TIRANA, Albania – Albania’s prime minister said Tuesday his government is determined to conclude the troubled privatization of state oil company Albpetrol by the end of the year, in an appeal to investors to seek opportunities in the country’s energy market.

Edi Rama told an energy conference that his 18-month-old Socialist government preferred to act as regulator instead of outright owner of power infrastructure and oil and gas projects.

Albania, currently reliant on hydroelectric power for nearly all its electricity needs, is seeking to diversify its energy sector as part of an effort to modernize its economy and further its bid for European Union membership.

A previous bid to privatize Albpetrol was cancelled in 2013 after the lead bidder failed to meet the conditions of the 850 million euro ($905 million) agreement.

“To us it is more important that the government becomes an active player in the market: It would serve as regulator and intervene, but only check competition and standards,” Rama said.

One of Europe’s poorest countries, Albania is hoping to put itself on Europe’s energy map as part of the planned Trans-Adriatic pipeline system, or TAP, to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea to western Europe.

The project was chosen in 2013 over a rival route and will transport gas from Azerbaijan across Turkey, Greece and Albania and undersea to Italy, with completion scheduled for 2019.

Albania’s crude oil extraction, run mainly by Canadian-based Bankers Petroleum and Petromanas Energy Inc., reached 1.4 million tons last year. The World Bank lent Albania $150 million (142 million euros) last year to improve its power distribution network and management.

The Tirana conference, organized by the London-based International Research Networks, ends Wednesday.



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