Bulgaria-Greece Gas Link to Be Ready by end-2018
Construction of the gas interconnection grid between Bulgaria and Greece will begin in March 2016 and will be completed by the end of 2018, Bulgaria's Energy Minister has said.
Under initial plans, the infrastructure was to be in place and become operational sometime in 2018.
Temenuzhka Petkova made the announcement following what she described as a "historic" meeting between officials from Bulgaria, Greece and Romania that was held in Sofia. Their talks were focused on the prospective construction of the so-called "Vertical Gas Corridor" linking gas grids of the three EU member states.
Petkova added a joint company had been set up to run the project with a capital of EUR 10 M.
Hosted by Bulgaria, the meeting brought together Petkova, her Greek counterpart Panagiotis Lafazanis and Romanian Energy State Secretary Mihai Albulescu.
A first step toward this project was made in December 2014 by energy ministers of the three Southeastern European nations following the demise of Gazprom's South Stream gas pipeline, which Russian President Vladimir Putin had scrapped days earlier. It is estimated that every year the new gas infrastructure could carry between 3-5 bcm of gas from Azerbaijan and from Greece's liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
Deputy PM for economic policies Tomislav Donchev attended the opening.
Focus News Agency quotes him as saying before the event that, as Europe's gas map is changing, interconnections with neighbors allow Bulgaria to be ready for "all future scenarios".
"We often talk about diversification, security of supplies. Without real connectedness among neighbors this is just eyewash," he explained, also stressing that the nascent European Energy Union was "impossible without a network of regional projects".
Separately, Petkova reiterated following the event that Sofia would apply for EU funding (of up to EUR 220 M) to foot the bill for the interconnection with Greece. Earlier this year, US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his visit to Bulgaria he would work to make sure Brussels would provide financial assistance.
As for the link with Romania, where a stalemate was purportedly caused in construction by a damage on the pipes laid under the Danube, Petkova said that a procurement had already been launched to pick a company that would carry out repair works. In her words, this interconnector could be ready for use by the end of this year.
The Bulgaria-Greece and the Bulgaria-Romania links are essential for the Vertical Gas Corridor, since the new infrastructure will involve both.
After the first gas crisis involving a Russia-Ukraine dispute in 2009, Bulgaria has been seeking to diversify its gas flow by building interconnection links with neighbors. However, none has been finished so far.
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