Serbia's Gastrans Invites Binding Bids for New Gas Link

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia's Gastrans has invited binding bids to book capacity at a planned section of Gazprom's TurkStream pipeline, which will carry Russian natural gas across Serbia to Europe.

The planned 250-mile pipeline through Serbia, which connects the country's natural gas transmission system to those of Bulgaria and Hungary, is expected to be completed by Dec. 15, with capacity of 13.88 billion cubic metres a year.

The TurkStream project is designed to deliver gas to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary as part of Russian plans to bypass Ukraine, currently a main transit route for its gas deliveries to Europe.

It is slated to begin commercial operation on Jan. 1, 2020.

Firms that placed non-binding offers in the market test of the project last year can place binding bids by March 18 for gas transit between Jan. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2039, Gastrans said.

Gastrans is owned by Swiss-based South Stream Serbia, in which Russia's Gazprom holds a 51 percent stake and Serbia's gas monopoly Srbijagas the remainder.

In last year's market test, Gastrans received non-binding bids for the import of 9,139 gigawatt hours (GWh) of natural gas per day from Bulgaria and the export of 5,258 GWh of gas per day to Hungary in 2019-2039.

The European Union's energy watchdog said last week the project would hurt competition in the region after Serbia's energy regulator exempted it from the EU's Third Energy Package, a 2009 reform to integrate the EU energy market and boost competition.

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