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Interconnector Gas Pipeline Between Greece, Bulgaria Delayed

Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov (L) and Greek PM Alexis Tsipras (R) sign their names on part of the new pipeline in 2019. Credit: Twitter/ Book Borissov

The Interconnector, or IGB, the proposed gas pipeline between Bulgaria and Greece, has been delayed until June of 2022, according to a statement from the Bulgarian energy regulator on Wednesday.

Meant to help wean Sofia off Russian gas, the proposed pipeline has hit another snag and will not be operational until June 2022.

Issues leading to the delay include not only coronavirus-related problems but also a need for additional environmental assessment for a crossing under a dam.

The dam, located in the Bulgarian section of the proposed gas line, poses a major issue for the project, according to the ICGB company, which is behind the effort.

Interconnector will cost 240 million euros

The Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria  pipeline, or IGB, has a price tag of 240 million euros. It was expected to have been ready by the end of last year, when Sofia’s 25-year deal with the Azeri gas company SOCAR was to have taken effect.

The deal is meant to allow the importation of 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.

The IGB, a 182-kilometer (113 mile) long pipeline, is currently being built by a joint venture of the Bulgarian state energy company BEH and Greece’s gas utility company DEPA, along with Italy’s Edison.

Ivan Ivanov, the head of Bulgaria’s energy regulatory authority, explained to Reuters in an interview “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.”

The IGB, which engineers states will have an initial annual capacity of 3 billion cubic meters of gas, is a key component in Europe’s plans to minimize its reliance on Russian gas. Its backers state that it will be linked to the proposed Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which comprises the final leg of a $40 billion project named the Southern Gas Corridor.

On completion, the Corridor will carry Azeri gas to Europe as an alternative to purchasing gas directly from Russia.

The Balkan country currently receives its Azeri gas by way of another pipeline link with Greece. The capacity of that pipeline will be brought down by September of this year.

Bulgaria now meets its gas needs for its people, amounting to approximately 3 billion cubic meters a year, mainly by importing the product from the Russian firm Gazprom.

The IGB will connect Greek and Bulgarian gas transfer stations which are already in existence in Komotini, Greece and Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. These stations are already fully operational, and the pipeline which will connect them will eventually have a length of 182 kilometers (113 miles) upon completion.

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