Mountainous and distant, the Greek-Bulgaria border as soon as shaped the southern nook of the Iron Curtain. Today, it’s the place the European Union is redrawing the area’s vitality map to ease its heavy reliance on Russian pure gasoline.
A brand new pipeline — constructed through the COVID-19 pandemic, examined and because of begin business operation in June — will be certain that massive volumes of gasoline will circulation between the 2 nations in each instructions to generate electrical energy, gas trade and warmth properties.
The vitality hyperlink takes on larger significance following Moscow’s choice this week to chop off pure gasoline provides to Poland and Bulgaria over a requirement for ruble funds stemming from Western sanctions over the warfare of Ukraine.
The 180-kilometer (110-mile) challenge is the primary of a number of deliberate gasoline interconnectors that may permit jap European Union members and nations hoping to affix the 27-nation bloc entry to the worldwide gasoline market.
In the quick time period, it’s Bulgaria’s backup.
The pipeline connection will give the nation entry to ports in neighboring Greece which are importing liquefied pure gasoline, or LNG, and in addition will carry gasoline from Azerbaijan via a brand new pipeline system that ends in Italy.
It’s one in every of many efforts as member states scramble to edit their vitality combine, with some reverting again to emissions-heavy coal whereas additionally planning expanded output from renewables. Germany, the world’s greatest purchaser of Russian vitality, is seeking to construct LNG import terminals that will take years, and Italy, one other high Russian gasoline importer, has reached offers with Algeria, Azerbaijan, Angola and Congo for gasoline provides.
The European Union needs ax its dependence on Russian oil and gasoline by two-thirds this 12 months and fully over 5 years via various sources, wind and photo voltaic, and conservation.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is more likely to speed up modifications within the EU’s long-term technique, adapting to vitality that’s costlier but additionally extra built-in amongst member states, stated Simone Tagliapietra, an vitality knowledgeable and analysis fellow on the Brussels-based suppose tank Bruegel.
“It’s a new world,” he stated. “And in this new world, it’s clear that Russia doesn’t want to be part of an international order as we think of it.”
Tagliapietra added: “The strategy — particularly by Germany — over the last 50 years was always one of engaging with Russia on energy. … But given what we are seeing in Ukraine and given Russia’s view of international relations, it’s not the kind of country with which we would like to do business.”
EU policymakers argue that whereas Eastern European members are a number of the most depending on Russian gasoline, the dimensions of their markets makes the issue manageable. Bulgaria imported 90% of its gasoline from Russia however solely consumes 3 billion cubic meters annually — thirty occasions lower than lead client Germany, based on 2020 knowledge from Eurostat, the EU statistics company.
Officially referred to as the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, the brand new pipeline will complement the present European community. Much of that dates to the Soviet period, transporting gasoline from huge vitality fields in Russia westward, when Moscow sought badly wanted funds for its faltering command economic system and Western suppliers to assist construct its pipelines.
The hyperlink will run between the northeastern Greek metropolis of Komotini and Stara Zagora, in central Bulgaria, and can give the nation and neighbors with new grid connections entry to the increasing world gasoline market. That features a reference to the newly constructed Trans Adriatic Pipeline carrying gasoline from Azerbaijan in addition to suppliers of liquefied pure gasoline that arrives by ship, more likely to embrace Qatar, Algeria and the United States.
As many as eight further interconnectors could possibly be in-built jap Europe, reaching so far as Ukraine and Austria.
The 240 million euro ($250 million) pipeline will carry 3 billion cubic meters of gasoline per 12 months, with an choice to be expanded to five billion. It obtained funding from Bulgaria, Greece and the EU and has robust political assist from Brussels and the United States.
On the bottom, the challenge confronted a number of holdups due to provide chain snags through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Receiving specialised elements and transferring personnel after development acquired underway in early 2020 quickly turned more and more tough, stated Antonis Mitzalis, govt director of the Greek contractor AVAX that oversaw the challenge.
Construction completed in early April, he stated, whereas work and testing at two metering stations and software program set up are within the last phases.
“We had a sequence in mind. But the fact that some materials did not arrive made us rework that sequence, sometimes with a cost effect,” Mitzalis stated.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis missed a tour of the positioning final month after contracting COVID-19. He spoke Wednesday together with his Bulgarian counterpart, Kiril Petkov, to supply assurances of Greek assist.
“Bulgaria and Greece will continue to work together for energy security and diversification — of strategic importance for both countries and the region,” Petkov later tweeted. “We both are confident for the successful completion of the IGB on time.”