Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, accompanied by Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova and her Turkish counterpart Fatih Dönmez, opened a new 20km stretch of pipeline near the border with Turkey on August 3.
The looping section, which runs in parallel to the main gas pipeline, will boost the annual capacity of the connection by 1.7 billion cubic metres to 15.7 billion cubic metres. More importantly, it will allow reverse gas flows from Turkey into Bulgaria – as opposed to one-way only into Turkey, as it is now.
Built at a cost of 46 million leva, or about 23.5 million euro, it is a key part of Bulgaria’s plans to secure new sources and transit routes for natural gas deliveries.
Bulgaria wants to build a gas hub near Varna on the Black Sea coast and Borissov recently visited Moscow to discuss the prospects for one of the four lines of the Turkish Stream pipeline between Russia and Turkey to be extended to the Bulgarian-Turkish border, from where it would be linked to the proposed hub.
Although no contracts have been signed, Borissov returned from Moscow optimistic that an agreement could be reached without breaching EU rules.
Russia cancelled the South Stream gas pipeline (the predecessor of Turkish Stream that was meant to cross the Black Sea and make landfall near Varna) in 2014 citing the delay in receiving the necessary permits in Bulgaria and the European Commission’s opposition to the project.
The main objection to the South Stream pipeline was that it breached EU’s Third energy package regulations, which prevent gas traders like Russia’s state-owned Gazprom from owning gas infrastructure.
Borissov was adamant that the latest efforts by Bulgaria were in line with EU rules. However, to fully prepare for the Turkish Stream extension, Bulgaria would still have to build another 11km section to the Turkish border. Bulgaria’s gas grid operator Bulgartransgaz has picked a contractor for the 50 million leva project, but its choice is currently being appealed, reports in Bulgarian media said…. / IBNA