Gas captive of Russia
From the beginning of 2021, Bulgaria had to break its dependence on Russian gas supplies and open its market to various other suppliers. This process has been prepared for over ten years – with the announcement of projects for gas interconnections with neighbouring countries, with the signing of agreements with Azerbaijan for Caspian gas, creating a gas exchange and the possibility of the so-called. Virtual transactions that do not require physical pipes. However, this will not happen.
Thanks to the Bulgarian government’s systematic actions in the service of Moscow, the country’s dependence on Russia will not only not decrease after the New Year, but will even increase, albeit indirectly. In domestic consumption, Russian gas may decline in volume, but Gazprom has already taken over control of gas transit routes for years to come. And there is no place for free competition.
In other words, new pipes can be laid in many places around the country, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov can be photographed regularly, explaining how much money he gives to ensure diversification of supplies – “gas will be able to come from anywhere. and go everywhere, “he says – but in reality, the main entrances to Bulgaria’s gas transmission system and all exits will be occupied by Russia’s Gazprom. Thus, only what is allowed by the Russian company will be transported and exported abroad.
New gas year
The coming 2021 will be critical for the Bulgarian natural gas market for several reasons. First, the two main projects the country has been implementing in recent years – the continuation of the Turkish Stream and the gas connection with Greece – will be put into operation. The Azeri gas supplies agreed in 2016 will also start – the first significant alternative source in history that Bulgaria will have. Finally, state intervention in the sector and regulated prices will decrease even more, as Bulgargaz is committed to offering even larger quantities of gas to the free market.
In theory, all this should have a positive effect and provide better opportunities for both the state-owned Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz in transmission and distribution and better prices for industrial and domestic consumers. In practice, however, it will create new problems, which the government is currently postponing. And the upcoming elections can only complicate the situation.
What’s going on behind the scenes
The BGN 3 billion gas pipeline from the Turkish to Serbian border, which Prime Minister Borissov calls the “Balkan Stream” but is a natural continuation of the “Turkish Stream”, is shrouded manipulation and outright lies. First, the government claims that this is part of the Bulgarian gas transmission network. Still, in practice, it can only serve for the transit of Russian gas to Serbia – Gazprom has reserved 80% of capacity. Still, it is 100% in practice because the entrance and the outlet are to the Russian pipes from “Turkish Stream”, respectively in Turkey and Serbia. It is supposed to be built by the Saudis from Arkad, but the builders are related to Gazprom, the Russians, who also provide the financing, and Bulgartransgaz will be paid an annual interest rate of 4.1%. It is supposed to provide diversification and make Bulgaria a distribution centre, but it strengthens Moscow’s influence and closes other suppliers’ opportunities to use the Bulgarian transit network.
The latter is the most crucial. Gazprom’s goal is not to supply gas to Bulgaria, which is traded here and exported to third countries but to supply it directly to end customers in Serbia and Hungary so that Moscow can exercise geopolitical influence. Reverse gas transmission is impossible because the route designed and reserved for the next 25 years is only from Turkey to Serbia.
Beyond these facts, there is something else – Russia above all wants to be sure to build the pipeline as soon as possible to block the Bulgarian national transit network. In practice, Turkish Stream through Bulgaria uses a large part of Bulgartransgaz’s existing network between Strandzha and Provadia, which, if accessible, could provide a route for alternative supplies to Ukraine via the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline. However, once occupied by Gazprom, this network will not be able to serve otherwise.
Mario Draghi program