Bulgaria’s Energy Energy Ministry said on November 22 that it has not been officially notified of any plans by Russia’s Gazprom concerning the land route that will be taken by gas deliveries through the Turkish Stream pipeline, after a report in Russia claimed that a decision in that sense has been made.
Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova said that Bulgaria was ready to participate “in the realisation of such a project, provided the EU regulations are strictly observed,” as quoted by Bulgarian National Television.
“Discussions on this issue were held during the visit of Prime Minister [Boiko] Borissov with president [Vladimir] Putin. We are prepared for such a project, but we have to await official information from Gazprom,” she said, referring to Borissov’s visit to Moscow in May, after which Borissov said that he received assurances from Putin that Turkish Stream gas deliveries will pass through Bulgaria.
Petkova’s statement came following a report in Russian business daily Kommersant, which claimed that Gazprom was actively engaged in tenders to book gas transit capacities in several south-eastern European countries, a process known as “open season” in the industry.
According to the report – based on the available documents regarding the open season process in Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia, published by the gas grid operators in those countries – Gazprom appeared intent to replicate the land route of the South Stream pipeline, cancelled in December 2014.
That project was scrapped after objections from the European Commission that it did not meet EU rules, namely the Third energy package regulations that banned gas traders like Gazprom from owning transport capacities. Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed the EC and Bulgaria for the project’s failure, announcing it was to be replaced by the Turkish Stream pipeline to Turkey.
Gazprom’s current plans would not run afoul of EU regulations, since it was not building the pipelines itself but using EU-mandated proceedings (the open season process) to book new transit capacities, which would be built by the operators in those countries, Kommersant said.
Industry sources quoted by the daily said that Gazprom intended to book all available capacity. The company was trying to reserve the 4.3 billion cubic metres a year on offer at the entrance to Slovakia from Hungary and a further 3.8 billion cubic metres a year at the entrance to Slovakia from Austria, according to Kommersant.
Bulgaria’s open season process offers 15.8 billion cubic metres a year capacity at the entrance from Turkey for a period of 20 years starting from January 2020. At the exit to Serbia, Bulgaria’s offer is for four billion cubic metres, rising to 11 billion cubic metres starting from January 2021.
Turkish Stream is to comprise two strings of 15.75 billion cubic metres – one for the Turkish market, one destined for further exports into Europe. Earlier this week, Gazprom said that the underwater part of the pipeline was complete, with the 69km onshore stretch to Luleburgaz (about 50km from the border with Greece and Bulgaria) due to be finished by the end of 2019.
If all construction is completed on time, both in Turkey and the other countries alongside the land route traced by Kommersant, Gazprom would be able to abandon its Ukrainian transit route starting in 2022, the newspaper noted.
That was the reason why Gazprom kept silent on its plans, in order to avoid external pressure on the transit countries in south-eastern Europe, Kommersant said.