Presidents and prime ministers opened the interconnector with Greece. Gas is cheaper
On October 1, two interrelated events occurred. Gas in our country became cheaper by 33.89% and the President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen, four presidents and two prime ministers opened the gas interconnector with Greece. The host of the event, which was called historic, was Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.
Due to the flow of gas through the new gas pipeline, which happened this morning, the President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who is one of the most courted dignitaries in Europe, the Presidents of Serbia and North Macedonia, Aleksandar Vucic, came to Sofia and Stevo Pendarovski, the Prime Ministers of Greece and Romania Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Nicolae Chouka.
The pipeline has a reserved capacity of 1.57 billion cubic meters of gas per year, with the possibility of transporting 3 billion. When these quantities are reached, then it will be increased to 5 billion, and at Komotini it will be necessary to additional compressors to be built.
Along with the launch of the pipeline, however, an idea for a new route for the transfer of Azeri gas to Central Europe was also launched. President Radev has been talking since yesterday that he is something like a representative before the EC of 4 transmission gas operators – Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. They propose to carry the additional 5 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan through their transmission networks. This is written in a letter from the four companies, which he will hand over to Ursula von der Leyen and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Thus, many investments for new gas pipelines would be saved.
In a message to the media, it is said that the gas transmission operators will work in continuation of the agreement on strategic cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan, signed on July 18, 2022 in Baku.
Bulgartransgaz explained that the route is from Turkey through Bulgaria and through the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline (through which Russian gas was transported through Ukraine and Romania through Bulgaria to the other Balkan countries) to be transported in Azeri to Romania. From Romania, it should be transported to Hungary and Slovakia. Both countries have gas connections to the Baumgarten storage facility in Austria.
The agreement of July 18 is for 10 million cubic meters, on the proposed route, they can transport 5 billion, and immediately. Azerbaijan has stated that they can provide 1.5-2 billion as early as next year, but the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP), which goes to Italy, cannot take them, and the four operators can do so from January 1.
The proposal of the four companies is not to invest in a new pipe parallel to the Trans-Adriatic pipeline, because it would be expensive and time-consuming.
However, with 20 billion cubic meters of gas, additional investments will be needed for the new route, but not in the amount of a second TAP pipe.
Several times in the speeches of presidents and prime ministers, the opening of the gas connection with Greece was called a historic event. It is loaded with several meanings.
The first is the transportation of non-Russian gas in a period of war and the second is its slow construction.
Despite the slow construction of the pipe, which lasted more than 12 years, the right place and the right time were finally found. From today, Bulgaria receives the full quantities of Azeri gas at a very low price, the formula of which is recorded in a 25-year contract, which also led to the cheaper fuel mix for the country from today.
The new gas pipeline can satisfy the full domestic needs of Bulgaria and provide diversification of sources. Bulgaria becomes less vulnerable and improves our ability to conduct negotiations, said Prime Minister Galab Donev. We have been facing an energy crisis since the second half of 2021, the situation is difficult and has been aggravated by the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The deliberate disruption of gas connections in the Baltics is confirmation that security of supply can be compromised very quickly. Because of this, the strategic importance of the gas pipeline goes beyond the borders of Bulgaria and our relations with Greece. The transfer of natural gas to Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Central Europe will be ensured, Galab Donev also stated.
The second meaning of “historical” is also clarified by the words of Ursula von der Leyen. “This event is special and the day is very important. The gas interconnector project has been on the table since 2009, when Bulgaria was severely affected by Gazprom’s decision to stop gas transport through Ukraine,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen began her speech. She thanked all the Bulgarian and Greek governments for the work done. The EC has supported it since the beginning, it participated in the financing of the project with 250 million euros. Bulgaria used to get 80% of its gas from Russia before it started a horrific war against Ukraine and an energy war against Europe. This project means freedom from dependence on Russian gas, she added.
Thanks to projects like this inteconnector, Europe will have enough gas in the winter, Von der Leyen said. The President of the European Commission also mentioned what has been achieved in recent days to deal with the energy crisis. Among them is limiting the extraordinary income of energy companies from expensive electricity and redirecting the money to support households and businesses. “We’ll get a lot more done if we curb the energy prices that are crippling our economy,” she added.
And Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that no one believed how important this interconnector would turn out to be, they considered it a luxury that was not very necessary. “But Radev, Borisov, Mitsotakis and Petkov saw it differently, they believed in it, and now they will take advantage of it. Now it will prove to be very important for Serbia as well, because we have already started the construction of an interconnector between Serbia and Bulgaria, and in a year I hope it will be completed. I hope that by this time next year we will be celebrating a similar ceremony in our country,” he said.
And he added that he wondered how Ursula von der Leyen would treat him, he felt like the black sheep. However, she behaved well and provided support, as did the EC, for the interconnector between Bulgaria and Serbia.
He turned to the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and told him that he is very fashionable in Europe and is super old. Without it, the diversification of energy supplies would not have been possible.
Aliyev said that by 2027, his country will absorb the supply of natural gas to Europe. Aliyev spoke about the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor, which has changed the energy map of Europe. “It transports gas to consumers by a new route and from a new source,” noted the president of Azerbaijan. Until now, it has mainly been Caspian gas, but Azerbaijan has been developing new fields. Aliyev reiterated that Azerbaijan is a reliable supplier to Europe, and now also to Bulgaria .
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recalled that he worked with Borisov and with Petkov to launch the interconnector.
“I worked intensively with Borisov and his government. 2 months ago together with Petkov we celebrated the completion of the construction of this energy bridge. This interconnector dramatically changes the energy map of the region. The start of commercial operations is an important moment for all of Europe. It will strengthen the security of energy supplies in the Balkans and in Europe. This is a coordination of cooperation and efforts of our governments,” he said.
Natural gas deliveries from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria will break the tight grip of Russian gas on the region and, along with other ongoing infrastructure projects, will contribute to the development of a gas network that can be relied upon, Mitsotakis said.
The more connected we are, the more flexible we will be, however difficult the energy challenges. This was stated by the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski. “Today we are together at a moment of many crises that are mutually reinforcing. The world has just begun to recover from the pandemic and Russian aggression in Ukraine has provoked a new energy crisis with socio-economic repercussions. The new interconnector comes at a very important moment for the region as well, and for the continent. We have to face a difficult winter, high inflation, rising unemployment. This is a new opportunity to diversify gas supplies not only for the Balkans, but also for the whole of Southeast Europe,” he said.
As the host, Radev closed the event. It began with the words: at last. This is how he reacted to the discovery of the gas connection with Greece. The President recalled that Bulgarian and Greek engineers designed it as a gas pipeline of a new generation. Radev once again thanked the President of Azerbaijan Aliyev for being a reliable partner over the years, and recalled that he had also worked with President Parvanov.
Radev also outlined the changes that will occur with the completion of the liquefied gas terminal at Alexandroupolis, the gas from which will be transported along the interconnector, the capacity of which will increase from 3 to 5 billion cubic meters in 2024. Sustainability, reliable and cheap energy. This is how the Bulgarian president defined the importance of the new gas pipeline. He also stated that the increase in the capacity of the gas storage in Chiren will also benefit the neighbors. He also mentioned the gas connection with Romania, which provided flexibility and security.
Radev talks about wartime connectivity and disrupted supply chains, highways and railroads. But without new bridges on the Danube, this connection would not be possible. He stated that up the river the distance between the bridges is 20 km, and between the only two bridges on the Danube between Bulgaria and Romania is 300 km. He hopes an agreement will soon be signed with the Romanian side for a third bridge on the Danube and for the negotiation of the next ones, as well as for navigation on the river.