Balkan Gas Hub: Bulgaria Plans to Keep Ownership of Grid
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev has said the state intends on retaining the ownership of the existing gas infrastructure despite offering a joint venture for the so-called Balkan Gas Hub project.
Some 50% of the new company's shares will be put up for sale. The new entity will be a subsidiary of Bulgartransgaz, the state-owned gas grid operator.
The gas network itself, however, has to remain under full control of the state on "national security" grounds, mass-circulation daily 24 Chasa quotes Donchev as saying in the closing remarks of a two-day conference the Bulgarian government set up to pitch the project to investors.
Bulgaria hopes to turn into a gas distribution center for Southeast Europe that will be used as a transit destination for gas from Azerbaijan, Russia or other destinations (including LNG deliveries made to Greece).
Russian energy giant Gazprom, however, was not among the the companies who had representatives among the several dozen investors taking part in the conference.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Monday said Moscow had not received an invitation as there were no "perspectives" for it in the project.
But a day later Donchev admitted the project would not be "that viable" without Russian gas even though it could be carried through without such a source in principle.
He also announced that, while discussing the project with investors, some of those had offered to build sections of the additional infrastructure that the project would require.
Investors heard all possible options to set up the hub and consider gas distribution routes, one leading to Italy and another following the route of the abandoned Nabucco West project.
It will be the business partners that will help Bulgaria take the decision, while funding details will be arranged together with the EU Commission, Donchev added.
Earlier on Tuesday, an EU official expressed the support of Brussels for talks with Russia or Turkey on the hub project, saying the Commission would take part in such negotiations.
The Deputy PM once again denied that the Balkan Gas Hub was an attempt at reviving the ditched South Stream pipeline project with Russia, but made clear Sofia still considered a pipeline going under the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast to be a possible scenario for Russian gas teliveries to the prospective hub.
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