As Gazprom scraps another contract, Bulgaria still holds out hope on South Stream
Bulgaria’s government again re-iterated on January 20 its position that it has never been officially notified of the cancellation of the South Stream gas pipeline, even as media reports in Russia said that Gazprom scrapped another contract related to the aborted project.
Dutch-registered South Stream Transport BV, the project company set up to build and operate the pipeline, has agreed to terminate the contract in which Gazprom guaranteed the shipping of gas through South Stream by its subsidiary Gazprom Export, Russia’s Tass agency said.
Gazprom is the sole owner of South Stream Transport BV, having acquired the stakes held by Germany’s Wintershall, French EdF and Italy’s Eni in December 2014. Last year, the company also scrapped the contract with Eni’s subsidiary Saipem, which was due to build the first of four South Stream lines under the Black Sea.
All those moves by Gazprom came after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced, during a visit to Ankara in December 2014, that South Stream was to be scrapped because of opposition from the European Commission and, in particular, Bulgaria’s failure to issue the necessary permits to begin work on the offshore pipeline in the Black Sea.
(It was to be replaced by a Turkish Stream pipeline that would move the same 63 billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey instead of Bulgaria, but that project too appears in a shambles, given that Ankara was holding out for larger gas price discounts even before relations between the two countries soured following the shooting-down of a Russian military aircraft near the Syrian border in November 2015).
Bulgaria’s government media service, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio, said that the latest contract cancellation referred to the offshore section of the project, which does not involve Bulgaria – perplexingly, the government statement also said that the contract referred to the construction of the offshore section. The report re-iterated the Cabinet’s position that Bulgaria has not received an official notification of South Stream’s cancellation.
Bulgaria still hopes to secure Russian gas deliveries for its proposed gas storage and distribution hub, with the issue due to be discussed at a meeting of the Russian-Bulgarian inter-governmental economic committee, scheduled for later in January 2016.
Another report, by news website Mediapool.bg, claimed that it was the state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holding that blocked an attempt by Gazprom to wind down their joint venture, South Stream Bulgaria, at the latest board meeting in 2015.