Russia Hints at Brighter Future for Bulgarian Gas
Russia's president Vladimir Putin sees new opportunities for Sofia to play a significant role in the transit of Russian gas to Europe, the Kremlin announced October 9, welcoming Bulgaria's new ambassador.
Russia is considering direct flows to Bulgaria via TurkStream2 as well as transiting gas from TurkStream 1 through Bulgaria on its way to east Europe.
“Once, unfortunately, the South Stream project was not realised, but now there are new opportunities for Bulgaria to play a significant role in the transit of Russian gas to European markets,” Putin said, referring to the corruption scandal that led to the abandonment of South Stream and its replacement with TurkStream.
A Bulgarian official told NGW that in early October Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and the director of Gazprom Export Elena Burmistrova visited Sofia and negotiated gas deliveries to EU via Turkstream through Bulgarian territory.
TurkStream is comprised of two parallel branches with overall 33bn m3/yr capacity and both of them have entered Turkish waters. The first will mostly carry gas for Turkey's consumption; the second branch is aimed to export gas to east Europe, but it is not yet clear if it would pass Turkey onshore or stretch directly into Bulgaria from Turkish waters. Shipping sources have told NGW that the latter is the case.
Russia's energy minister Alexander Novak announced recently that the offshore part of the TurkStream pipeline is 85% ready; gas will start flowing in late 2019. We have no doubt that the whole project will be implemented by the end of 2019,” he said.
“Coming to gas deliveries to EU via TurkStream, there are different route options. There is an option for Greece and Italy, there are options for gas supplies through Turkey to Bulgaria, then Serbia, Hungary and Austria… for us today the priority is, of course, the direction towards Bulgaria and Austria," the minister added.
The Bulgarian official told NGW that the country’s gas intake from Russia may not happen until 2022, because at least €2bn is needed to build pipelines and complete interconnectors in Bulgaria and neighbouring countries to take Russian gas. “However, Gazprom doesn’t want to become involved in these projects and participant countries should finance these projects themselves,” he said.
Last year Bulgaria earned $200mn cash transit fee for taking Russian gas from Ukraine and delivering to markets. There is though more political capital to be made from direct deliveries from Russia than from transiting third-party gas.