A proposed gas pipeline moving some 1.8 million cubic meters of natural gas per year from Bulgaria to Serbia linking the Bulgarian capital, Sofia with the Serbian city of Nis could have a beneficial impact on local economies and help the two nations to be less reliant on Russian oil.
As the leaders of the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the
project in January, outgoing Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka
Petkova cited secure deliveries and competitive prices as good results
from a new pipeline.
“The engagement of different companies will be big,” Petkova said, according to a Jan. 20 Balkan Insight article.
successor has also weighed in on the idea: a Feb. 22
Reuters article quotes new Bulgarian energy minister Nikolay Pavlov
projecting a timeline for the pipeline.
"At the moment the preparation of tender documents for
the building of the IGB is under way, so that the construction can start at the
beginning of 2018," Pavlov said in a press statement.
Funds for the project will come from Bulgaria's Innovation
and Competitiveness Program, and some of the Serbian money will come from the
European Commission. Analysts suggest Serbia might receive up to $63 million for the project.
Vishal Kumar Manoria, assistant manager of investment research and analytics at research firm Aranca, spoke to
Balkan Business Wire about the project. Manoria has researched various sectors and markets in the Middle East and
Europe for leading asset management and private equity firms.
“Bulgaria and Serbia's attempt to diversify their natural
gas import sources from Russia is not a new concept,” Manoria said. “Both
countries intended to diversify supplies after they were cut in 2009 over
disputes between Ukraine and Russia. Russia is the sole exporter of gas to
Bulgaria and supplies more than 80% of the Serbia’s annual gas consumption.”
Manoria said the Bulgaria/Serbia interconnect proposal is an
effort to “re-activate” a deal that floundered in 2012.
“Lack of financing from Serbia’s side and collapse of South
Stream project led to stagnation,” Manoria said.
Manoria said the new pipeline should be operational by 2020.
However, by that time, he said, the demand for natural gas in both countries
will outstrip the supply coming through the pipeline.
the planned annual capacity of Bulgaria/Serbia interconnection would hardly be
sufficient to meet the demand, potential to extend the capacity … will reduce
the heavy reliance on a single supplier, especially from 2019, when Russia will
stop gas deliveries through Ukraine,” Manoria said. “Moreover, this interconnection
will also provide Serbia a possibility to receive certain quantities of the gas
flowing through other priority projects commissioned by the EU.”
Despite these diversification
efforts, Manoria still expects the Russian connection to stay strong for a
“Russia is expected to remain the
dominant supplier in the medium term,” Manoria said. “However, we believe
increasing supply from new routes will inevitably put pressure on prices and
will strengthen negotiating power of both the countries with Russia.”
Bulgaria, Serbia work toward creating gas pipeline interconnect