Bulgaria steps up work on gas links with neighbors
Tsvetelia Tsolova/SOFIA - Reuters
Sofia is also looking into a BP project for a pipeline from Turkey to the Romania-Hungary border do diversify its supplies.Bulgaria is stepping up work to build new gas links to allow Caspian gas flows to southeast Europe and lessen the region’s dependence on Russian supplies, the head of the state energy company told Reuters last week.
BEH Chief Executive Jordan Georgiev said the Balkan country, almost fully dependent on Gazprom gas imports, plans to have gas interconnector links with neighboring Greece and Turkey ready by the end of 2013.
“The aim is clear. A full diversification of gas routes and suppliers and taking full advantage of the geographic position of Bulgaria,” Georgiev said in an interview.
The 170- kilometer gas link between Bulgaria and Greece is expected to start operations in early 2014 and become the first route to bring Azeri gas to the Balkans.
The new gas pipeline links and alternative supplies will help Bulgaria be more flexible at pending talks over a new supply contract with Russia’s Gazprom, which has to be signed by the end of 2012 when the old ones expire.
Gazprom meets over 90 percent of Bulgaria’s gas needs and supplies it over one route, which left its business without gas and its people without heating for over a week during a Russia-Ukraine gas dispute in the winter of 2009.
Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov has said Bulgaria aims to diversify its gas mix so that neither of its gas suppliers holds over a 50 percent market share by 2020.
The 150 million euro gas pipeline line between Bulgraia and Greece has a planned annual capacity of 3 billion cubic meters (bcm) which may be raised to 5 bcm.
One third of the financing will come from the European Union, while the rest would probably be raised as a loan by BEH and partners from IGI Poseidon, 50/50 percent controlled by Greece’s DEPA and Italy’s Edison, Georgiev said.
The work on the gas link with Turkey is not so advanced, but Georgiev said the 77-km link with a planned capacity of up to 3 bcm a year could be completed by the end of 2013.
Bulgaria consumes about 3 bcm a year and has held talks with Azerbaijan for the supply of about a third of that.
BEH is holding talks for possible imports with Azerbaijan’s state energy company Socar, the consortium that is developing the second phase of the giant Shah Deniz gas field, and is looking at options for imports from a Greek LNG terminal, Georgiev said.
The country was also building gas links with neighbouring Romania and Serbia, which should be completed by the end of 2012 and in early 2015, respectively.
Bulgaria remains committed to the EU-backed Nabucco gas pipeline, where BEH is one of shareholders along with Austria’s OMV, Germany’s RWE, Hungary’s MOL, Turkey’s Botaş and Romania’s Transgaz, he said.
Sofia is also looking into a BP project for a pipeline from Turkey to the Romania-Hungary border, which may use the national gas networks of the countries or build a separate pipeline.