By SOCAR USA

Azerbaijan was the biggest oil producer in the world in the early 1900s, producing more than the United States, Russia and Middle Eastern players.

The relatively small country exported much of that oil, earning fortunes for its industry pioneers, who built mansions in the capital of Baku.

Azerbaijan did not become a net natural gas exporter until 2007, but is making up for lost time, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The good news for a Europe that is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas is that a lot of Azerbaijan’s output will go to the continent.

Those exports will help raise Azerbaijan’s economic growth rate, which has been wallowing due to the global drop in the price of oil, to about 2.75 percent a year, the International Monetary Fund predicts.

Most of Azerbaijan’s gas comes from the giant Shah Deniz field, which it has developed in two steps with a number of international partners.

Azerbaijan is already selling gas to Georgia and Turkey through the South Caucasus Pipeline that opened in 2006 to tap the Shah Deniz I field.

It is working with Turkey and Greece to build a pipeline that will connect the South Caucasus Pipeline to Italy to tap the Shah Deniz II field. Plans are for that link, called the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, to open in 2018.

When the pipeline is complete, Azerbaijan will be able to export more than 500 billion cubic feet of gas per year to Europe, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts.

Estimates of the Shah Deniz’s reserves range from 50 billion to 100 billion cubic meters of gas, which means it will be able to supply Europe for decades.

SOCAR USA is the U.S. representative office of SOCAR, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, and is headed by Director Rauf Mammadov. The office was founded in 2012 and is engaged in generating awareness of the company’s global activities in the United States and exploring U.S.-based energy-industry opportunities.