Bulgaria tries to loosen Russian grip with new gas pipeline deals

As EU energy policy and its wider strategy vis-a-vis Russia come under the spotlight, some smaller EU members are taking energy policy into their own hands. Sofia’s aim of buying Israeli gas could be a case in point.

The Bulgarian Minister of Energy Temenuzhka Petkova reiterated this week (editor’s note: before her February 23 resignation) that Bulgaria is interested in buying natural gas from two Israeli gas fields, Tamar (photo) and Leviathan.

The final decision is dependent, she said, on finishing the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector (IGB) which is a 220 million euro ($280 million), 182km-long project set to link up the Greek gas transmission system in the area of Komotini to the Bulgarian one around Stara Zagora. But no matter what the status of the pipeline, the desire to shift away from almost total reliance on Russian gas appears clear.

Currently Russia’s Gazprom is the sole exporter of gas to Bulgaria and supplies nearly 90 per cent of the Balkan nation’s annual gas consumption. In 2009, Bulgarians shivered and industry ground to a halt when a Russian-Ukrainian dispute saw Moscow cut off gas piped through Ukraine to Romania and Bulgaria. Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, has since sought to diversify away from Russian gas.

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(Photo: jarpur/sxc.hu)