ATHENS – Following the scrapping of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline and Gazprom’s recent announcement that natural gas exports to Europe will bypass Ukraine entirely and go via a proposed new pipeline to Turkey, strengthening Bulgaria and Southeast Europe’s energy security has become an even bigger priority for the European Commission and Vice President of the EU Energy Union Maros Sefcovic.
On that note, Greece and Bulgaria are proceeding with the 183-kilometre Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB Pipeline). The project, which will have an initial capacity of 3 billion cubic metres a year with the possibility for an upgrade to around 5 billion cubic metres, can serve as a northern link from Greece to Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, elsewhere in the region and even Baltic countries.
IGB is proposed to connect with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will transport gas within the second stage of Azerbaijani Shah Deniz field development to Europe.
But the latest developments in the region may also revive the gas pipeline from Greece to Italy via the Adriatic Sea, known as the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI). The pipeline project lost out in the race to carry Caspian supplies to Europe from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field.
ITGI could transport gas from the East Mediterranean basin – Cyprus and Israel – to Europe, DEPA’s International Projects Deputy Division head Dimitris Manolis told New Europe on January 16. Asked about the scrapping of South Stream, the executive from the Greek natural gas utility said, “We were not involved in the project”.
“Regarding ITGI, it was never dead,” he said. “ITGI was always a mature project. It has completed the licensing round; it has completed all the technical studies. The only thing missing is the gas,” he added.
Manolis reminded that after ITGI was excluded from the Shah Deniz selection in 2012 it was still named a Project of Common Interest by the European Commission and was placed on Greece’s fast track list in June 2014, following a bi-ministerial meeting.
“The findings in East Mediterranean basin, Middle East and the Caspian Sea could sources for the pipeline,” Manolis said. He underlined that in particular the IGI-Poseidon pipeline, managed by Italy’s Edison and DEPA, is the most advanced and technically mature project with a secured and fully authorised landfall in Italy.
A European Commission energy spokesperson told New Europe on January 16 the Commission has selected Projects of Common Interest which are important for the EU from a diversification, market integration or security of supply angle. “All three – IGB, ITGI and the East Med Pipeline (Cyprus to EU) – are on the list,” she said, noting, however, that the end of the day projects must show an economic viability and the market must see a business case in it.
Energy security in Central and South East Europe is a top priority for the Juncker Commission, the EU spokesperson said. “Therefore Vice President Sefcovic has convened a high level group with EU Member States from the region concerned to discuss infrastructure challenges and project options ‘after South Stream’,” she said, adding that the first meeting will take place soon in Sofia.
follow on twitter @energyinsider
Previously on Energy Insider: