Bulgaria and Greece Plan Joint Gas Purchases for Southeast Europe

(Reuters) — Bulgaria and Greece agreed to seek joint gas deliveries for southeastern Europe and decrease its reliance on Russian gas amid the war in Ukraine, Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said on Thursday.

Bulgaria, which was meeting over 90% of its gas needs with Russian imports, saw its gas deliveries cut on April 27 along with Poland after refusing to pay in rubles. 

The Balkan country, backed by the European Union's executive Commission, is now pushing for regional cooperation that would include better use of gas and electricity infrastructure as well as joint EU gas purchases to cut dependence on Russian imports.

Sofia is hosting an EU task force to monitor the gas supply in the region, which held its first meeting on Thursday. It is also hosting a forum of energy officials from Greece, Romania, Turkey, Serbia, North Macedonia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Bulgaria, which currently transports Russian gas to Serbia and Hungary, can also carry out over 20 billion cubic meters of gas a year through its gas network up north to the rest of Europe, its deputy prime minister Assen Vassilev said.

"I believe with our common efforts, with the existing infrastructure and with small upgrades, we can diversify the region in a major way, and we can cut the dependence (from Russia) once and for all," Vassilev told the forum.

Bulgaria's gas provider Bulgargaz and Greek gas utility DEPA will look for gas delivery opportunities for the region, Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said.

The two companies have agreed to start joint LNG purchases that should improve their negotiating power, Greek Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas told reporters.

Greece plans to double storage capacity of its sole LNG terminal in Revithoussa off Athens soon and build a new LNG terminal off its northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis by the end of 2023, Skrekas said. 

The IGB gas interconnector link between the two countries, which will carry gas from LNG terminals and Azeri pipeline gas to Bulgaria, should become operational in July, he said. 

On Thursday, Bulgargaz signed a contract with a Bulgarian company to start building a gas link with neighboring Serbia.

($1 = 1.8521 leva)

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