Greece-Bulgaria gas pipeline could extend natural gas supply to Moldova and Ukraine

SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 20 (SeeNews) – ICGB, the project company of the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector (IGB), intends to offer all unreserved capacities to interested parties once the pipeline is operational and that some suppliers will be able to choose to deliver gas to Moldova and Ukraine, the ICGB’s managing director on the Bulgarian side, Teodora Georgieva, told SeeNews in a recent interview.

However, as operator of the pipeline, ICGB has no way of guaranteeing that this capacity will be used for this purpose, Georgieva added.

Earlier this month, Bulgaria and Greece completed construction of a 220 million euro ($223.1 million) gas link with an annual capacity of 3 billion cubic meters (bcm). The link is connected to the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP), allowing additional quantities of gas from Azerbaijan that arrive at Greek ports to be routed to Italy and the wider South Eastern Europe (SEE) region. . It will also allow the flow of liquefied natural gas to Bulgaria and SEE from the Greek LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis, paving the way for potential future LNG imports from the United States, Algeria, Qatar, Egypt and other suppliers. The pipeline is seen as a crucial part of European Union plans to forego Russian gas supplies entirely by 2030 and beyond.

Up to 1.57 billion cubic meters of capacity on IGB has already been secured under long-term contracts of up to 25 years, with some companies making their debut in the Bulgarian market. In addition to the public supplier Bulgargaz, its Greek counterpart DEPA and the Italian energy company Edison have reserved long-term capacities, in addition to the Azerbaijani public supplier Socar, which will supply 1 billion cubic meters per year. The American Linden Energy, which is awaiting regulatory approval to buy 50% of the Bulgarian gas supplier Overgas, must also reaffirm its commitment to take 10% of IGB’s volume.

The remaining capacity will be offered to all interested parties via the European platforms PRISMA and RBP.

“Interest in the project was high even when it was launched, but now, when the international environment has completely changed following the war in Ukraine and the bypassing of Russian gas as an energy source, interest for the IGB is increasing and I believe the project will quickly reach full capacity,” noted Georgieva.

ICGB received official certification as an independent transmission operator from Greek and Bulgarian energy regulators last week, after construction of the pipeline was completed earlier in July.

At the time, Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said the interconnector will allow Romania to supply gas to Ukraine and Moldova, via the BRUA gas pipeline which is connected to IGB.

With the EU having set a requirement that gas storage facilities in all member states be at least 80% full by November 1, the overriding question is when the IGB will start commercial operations at the latest. early.

Greek construction and engineering company AVAX has yet to finalize the integration and testing of the automatic pipeline control system, SCADA, while the Bulgarian construction supervision agency is to give the go-ahead , followed by similar steps on the Greek side, explained Georgieva.

“Commercial operation is scheduled for the end of September at the latest, in the event of a delay due to administrative procedures beyond the control of the company,” she said. If the political and institutional will were sufficient to shorten the many time-consuming administrative steps, commissioning could take place earlier, at the end of the summer and well in time for the next heating season. Efforts at all levels are focused on an earlier start, Georgieva stressed.

Asked how to actually achieve IGB’s potential capacity of 5 billion cubic meters per year, Georgieva said this would require the construction of a gas compressor station at Komotini in Greece, a decision that would depend on sufficient commitments for larger transfer volumes by merchants.

“In the event that the market shows greater interest in IGB’s initial capacity of 3 billion m3, we will do everything necessary to meet demand as soon as possible.”

Events unfolding in Ukraine have greatly accelerated this process and ICGB has been in talks with DESFA over the past few months about the potential compressor station, which would expand DESFA’s own infrastructure while also allowing direct imports into Bulgaria to from Revithoussa’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) Terminal.

The optimal solution would be for DESFA to complete the compressor station at the same time as the future LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis, connecting the IGB to it, which would then create a new direct gas supply route to Europe, added Georgiava.

The construction of the Alexandroupolis LNG terminal, with an annual capacity of 6 billion m3, and the 10.2 billion m3 per year terminal at Saros in Turkey, will provide additional boosts to energy diversification and security in the wider SEE region, as well as the use of the Trans Balkan pipeline’s free capacity and the doubling of TAP’s capacity to 20 bcm per year.

($ = 0.97734 euros)

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