Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov opened at a ceremony on November 11 the gas interconnector pipeline with Romania, describing it as a key step towards diversification of gas supply sources and strengthening Bulgaria’s energy security.
This is the first of three interconnector pipelines Bulgaria plans to build with neighbouring countries, but link-ups with Serbia and Greece have been repeatedly delayed over the year, although Borissov said that he expected the European Commission to approve funding for the pipeline to Serbia as early as next week.
The interconnector with Romania has also been delayed repeatedly over the years, mainly because of the geological conditions and difficulties of building the 2.1km stretch under the Danube River. Borissov also blamed the government of his predecessor in office, Plamen Oresharski, for the poor quality of construction.
Initially scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, the interconnector with Romania is 25km long, including 15.4km in Bulgaria and 7.5km on Romanian soil. It cost 24 million euro to build, including nine million euro allocated by the European Commission.
Although completed, the interconnector is not yet operational because Bulgaria’s gas grid operator Bulgartransgaz is yet to call a tender for the pipeline’s capacity, news website Mediapool.bg reported. The report also said that new pipeline was likely to remain under-utilised until Bulgaria built the interconnector to Greece, which could impact the current gas flow routes in the Balkans.
The interconnector with Greece is one of the key elements of Bulgaria’s strategy to diversify energy sources and reduce reliance on gas imports from Russia, which now account for more than 80 per cent of domestic consumption. It would serve as the final leg of a network of pipelines pumping Azeri gas from the Shah Deniz field into Europe – Bulgaria has already agreed to buy at least one billion cubic metres of gas from Azerbajan, but currently lacks the necessary infrastructure to ship it in.
Even though the pipeline to Greece has been labelled repeatedly as a top priority by Borissov and an investment decision was signed in December 2015, several factors contributed to the delay, with a decision on additional EU funding expected at the start of 2017 and construction unlikely to begin before then.
The two interconnectors will implement the “vertical gas corridor” that Bulgaria, Greece and Romania signed an agreement on in 2015./IBNA