Appeals Threaten to Delay Greek-Bulgarian Pipeline
Vladislava Tsekova, from ICGB investment, tasked with completing the construction of the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector, told BIRN that the holding hopes the project will soon be back on track after the procurement procedure for the construction was stopped due to appeals.
“We have grounds to claim that important state interest are at stake that allow for the continuation of the procedures, despite the appeals,” Tsekova said.
Bulgaria’s Competition Protection Commission, CPC, stopped two public tender procedures on Monday for the construction of this important energy project designed to lessen the region's dependence on Russian gas.
The reason are complaints from companies with little known experience in gas pipeline construction, including a winery and a real estate firm.
The halt to the tenders threatens to delay construction on the Bulgarian side of the pipeline beyond the deadline set by the government in Sofia.
Boyko Borissov's government hoped construction of the pipeline would begin by June 28, at the end of the Bulgaria’s six-month presidency of the Council of the EU.
Possible postponement of the work will prolong the region's energy dependency on the Russia’s state company, Gazprom.
Tsekova told BIRN that the time limit for the CPC to announce its decision is short, so the company does not expect critical postponement of the construction process.
“Of course, if this type of appeal continues with our next public tenders, we risk compromising the timeline of the project and Bulgaria’s national interest”, she said.
“The IGB [Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria] is a key energy diversification project, which is a substantial argument for public interest that trumps any individual private interest,” she added.
BIRN asked the CPC to comment on the delays – but did not receive an answer by the time of publication.
The IGB gas interconnector will link the two countries' natural gas systems between Komotini in northern Greece and Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria.
The 182-km long project will be a strategic transportation infrastructure not only for Bulgaria, but also for the rest of South East Europe, as it will diversify the sources of gas for the entire region.
It will have a transportation capacity of 3 billion cubic meters per year [bcma] of natural gas, with the possibility of an upgrade to up to 5 bcma.
On Monday, the CPC announced that the selection of an engineering consultant for the project was being contested by a real estate company, Next Invest.
The project, worth 8.5 million euros, was already contested at the first stage of the public tender procedure earlier in January by both Next Invest and a winery, Vini Bulgaria.
Despite the CPC refusing to initiate administrative proceedings on the basis of the appeals, the two companies have persisted in attempts to stop the tenders.
One of the sources of diversification of the gas supplies will be the nearly completed Azerbaijani Shah Deniz II gas field in the Caspian Sea, which will deliver 6 bcma of gas to Turkey and a further 10 bcma of gas to markets in Europe via a route known as the Southern Gas Corridor by 2019.
In 2016, Borissov's second government agreed with the Azerbaijan government for 1 bcma of gas to be delivered to Bulgaria by 2020, decreasing Sofia’s almost complete dependency on Russian gas.
The project has received 45 million euros in backing through the European Energy Program of the European Commission and additional long-term debt financing by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD.
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