SOFIA- A gas pipeline between Greece and Bulgaria aimed at helping Sofia wean off Russian gas has hit another delay and will not become operational until June 2022, the head of the Bulgarian energy regulator said on Wednesday.
The coronavirus pandemic and need for additional environmental assessment for a crossing under a dam in the Bulgarian stretch had delayed the construction of the pipeline, the ICGB company, which runs the project, has said.
The 240-million-euros Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline was planned to have been ready by the end of 2020, when Sofia's 25-year deal with Azeri gas company SOCAR to import 1 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year kicked off.
The IGB, a 182-kilometre pipeline (113 miles), is being constructed by a joint venture of Bulgaria's state energy company BEH and Greece's gas utility DEPA and Italy's Edison.
"We have given our consent to the request of the ICGB to extend the deadline for the start of operations of the IGB to June 30, 2022," said Ivan Ivanov, head of Bulgaria's energy regulator.
The pipeline, with an initial annual capacity of 3 billion cubic metres, is important to Europe's plans to cut its reliance on Russian gas, as it will be linked to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the final leg of a $40 billion project named the Southern Gas Corridor, that will carry Azeri gas to Europe. The Balkan country currently gets the Azeri gas supplies through another gas pipeline link with Greece. The capacity there is reserved by September.
At present, Bulgaria meets its gas needs of about 3 billion cubic metres a year mainly with imports from Russia's Gazprom.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova Editing by Bernadette Baum) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +359-888-311-435;))