Bulgaria to build new $236mn ‘gas corridor’ with Romania and Greece - media

Reuters / Bogdan Cristel
Bulgaria has reportedly inked a deal on a new “gas corridor” with Romania and Greece which will be completed in 2018, and is expected to cut the country’s almost total dependency on Russian natural gas.

The agreement on the $236.2 million link between Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, which is also known as a vertical gas corridor, has been signed by the energy ministers of the three countries in Sofia, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. Bulgaria will also be able to buy about 3-5 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Azerbaijan and from Greece’s liquefied natural gas terminals.

“We are finally getting a new source of gas because until now we were totally reliant on one source—Russia,” Bulgaria’s Deputy Energy Minister Zhecho Stankov was cited as saying by WSJ.

Bulgaria consumes about 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas, 95 percent of which is imported from Russia, and the majority of that comes through Ukraine which is seen as an unreliable transit country. It has been cut off from Russian supplies twice, in 2006 and 2009. Bulgaria has been seeking to diversify its gas supply by building interconnection links with neighbors.

“We often talk about diversification, security of supplies. Without real connectivity between neighbors this is just eyewash,” Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said, according to greekreporter.com. He also added that Europe’s gas map is changing and interconnections with neighbors allow Bulgaria to be ready for “all future scenarios”.

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The country has been significantly affected by the cancellation of the South Stream project, under which it was hoping to get gas directly from Russia, and not via Ukraine. Bulgaria lost more than 6,000 new jobs and over $3 billion of investment when Russia scrapped South Stream because of objections from the EU. In December, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller announced the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline that’ll deliver Russian gas to Turkey and onwards to Europe via the Black Sea.

Bulgaria, meanwhile, is also seeking to raise its own production of natural gas. Last week the country launched a tender for deep water gas and oil exploration off its Black Sea coastline, according to Stankov. In February, government officials claimed they were in talks with Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Statoil and other oil companies over the exploration of Bulgaria’s Teres and Silistar oil and gas blocks.