Bulgaria hopes to change the route of Turkish Stream second pipeline. On the eve of his official trip to Moscow, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev made a statement saying Sofia hopes for a pipeline that would bring gas directly from Russia to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Experts say such option is economically more viable for Gazprom, however, the facilitated option of South Stream again faces the same issue – lack of EU guarantees. What is the way out of the situation? Bulgaria may seek postponement of construction of Turkish Stream second pipe so that after completion of Nord Stream 2 it persuades Brussels to agree on a direct transit gas pipeline via Bulgaria that may become part of the Balkan gas hub.
In an interview with the Kommersant Russian daily, Radev said Bulgaria needs direct supply of Russia gas via Black Sea. “Let’s call it Bulgarian Stream,” he said. “The Bulgarian request for Bulgarian Stream is no different from Germany’s request for Nord Stream 2, Radev said adding that both projects would be compatible with EU legislation and energy security requirements. The Bulgarian president recalled that Bulgaria and Germany are EU members and should observe the Third Energy Package.
The Bulgarian president hopes Russia and Brussels will show understanding of the idea of a direct pipeline, which, as he thinks, is the cheapest and most secure one, especially when it comes to additional supplies of Russian gas to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, and north of Italy. Rumen Radev is sure that it is logical for Russia and Bulgaria to increase gas supplies to Europe via the territory of Bulgaria.
Deputy Director of the National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach believes the second pipe of the Turkish Stream pipeline - talks on its route have just started with Turkey - may be laid via territory of Bulgaria if Sofia gives a relevant permit and guarantees of gas supply infrastructure development. However, Sofia’s guarantees are not sufficient for it.
“Putting aside all external factors, it is better supplying gas for Europe directly via Bulgaria. However, after the story with the South Stream, it will not be easy for Bulgaria to prove that it is a reliable partner. It will be even harder for it to resist external pressure. If U.S. already blackmails Germany with trade war demanding it to refuse from Nord Stream 2, it will reduce Bulgaria to dust,” Grivach says.
According to senior analyst at the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov, a direct gas pipeline to Bulgaria is economically substantiated, as it repeats South Stream’s route. “However, everyone remembers what happened to South Stream after American senators landed in Bulgaria. It was for a reason that Sergey Lavrov said EU guarantees were needed,” the expert said. He is sure that Sofia could demonstrate its independence if it did not support extension of EU sanctions on Russia. As regards Bulgaria’s suggestion to resume the Belene NPP project, Yushkov does not think it a sufficient reason to relaunch the South Stream project.
“The gas issue is more politicized and requires more conciliatory gestures,” Igor Yushkov said. He believes that Sofia could be interested in postponement of Turkish Stream until competition of Nord Stream 2, as it would be easier for it to get EU permit then.
The president of Bulgaria said his country is determined to strengthen its positions of regional gas distribution center, and EU supports the idea of Balkan hub. The Bulgartransgaz Company that plans implementation of the project has published a statement on its website saying Russian gas from the Turkish Stream is one of the sources of future hub, along with gas supplies from the Southern Gas Corridor and recovery from the Bulgarian and Romanian sectors of Black Sea.
The project of Balkan gas hub will be completed in September and will hardly be built this or even next year. Meantime, Gazprom plans to launch the second pipe of Turkish Stream as early as next year.
As far Bulgaria has nothing for second pipe of Turkish Stream in case of any route: direct or via Turkey.
Friday, Bulgarian and Serbian Ministers of Energy Temenuzhka Petkova and Aleksandar Antic signed a declaration on construction of 62km interconnector. It is anticipated to launch the gas pipeline with an annual capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters in 2022.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov earlier said there is an arrangement with Ankara and Moscow for supply of 1 billion cubic meters of gas to Macedonia and 10 billion cubic meters to Serbia (and farther). Therefore, Deputy Director of the National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach believes that capacities of interconnector are insufficient for second pipe of Turkish Stream and more infrastructures are needed.
Gazprom considers the route from Bulgaria to Serbia, Hungary and Austria as one of the main options. Serbia’s Gaztrans belonging to Gazprom and Srbijagas plans to build a pipeline to link gas transportation systems of Bulgaria and Hungary. Investment decisions on the project are anticipated in summer when construction permits from all the three countries will be provided. It is anticipated to put the gas pipeline with a capacity of 15 billion cubic meters into operation in autumn of 2019. Nine companies have applied for such volumes with pending contracts, Gaztrans reported a week ago.
Earlier Russian President Vladimir Putin said supplies of the Russian gas to Serbia alone may increase to 3,5 billion cubic meters by 2022. Besides, Gazprom signed a contract with the Hungarian government to join the Turkish Stream and supply about 8 billion cubic meters of gas. So far, the countries receive gas via Ukraine.