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Azerbaijan Crucial for Bulgaria’s Gas Diversification, Says President Radev

By Timucin Turksoy May 11, 2024


Bulgarian President Rumen Radev speaks at a press briefing with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, May 8, 2023 / President.Az

President Rumen Radev underscored Azerbaijan’s pivotal role as a crucial and decisive partner for Bulgaria in the energy sector during a joint press briefing with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday.

“In the fall of 2022, with the participation of President Aliyev in the city of Sofia, we started using the gas network between Greece and Bulgaria, thus connecting the Southern Gas Corridor to Central and Eastern Europe,” President Radev noted.

Bulgaria began importing gas from Azerbaijan in 2021, starting with a supply of 270 million cubic meters. By 2022, following the inauguration of the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector (IGB), deliveries exceeded 500 million cubic meters. This year, it is expected to reach around 1 billion cubic meters.

The IGB has enabled direct supplies of natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea fields to Bulgaria via the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) pipeline. Since December 31st, 2020, Azerbaijan has been supplying natural gas to Europe via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which forms the final segment of the SGC. At the Turkish-Greek border, the TANAP pipeline, the largest section of the SGC, connects to the TAP pipeline. The three-segmented SGC spans seven countries and six regulatory systems, linking 11 different investors and supplying 12 different gas buyers, primarily in Europe.

Previously, Bulgaria imported Azerbaijani gas at the Kula-Sidirokastro border checkpoint with Greece through an existing line. However, the small capacity of this line meant it could transport only 250-300 million cubic meters of gas per year to Bulgaria. The majority of Bulgaria’s gas purchases, amounting to 3 billion cubic meters, traditionally came from Russia. The IGB has reduced Bulgaria’s gas dependence on Russia by linking the TAP pipeline with the gas transmission network of Bulgaria.

The technical capacity of the IGB is estimated at 3 bcm per year, with the potential for expansion up to 5 bcm after the construction of a compressor station on Greek territory. This station would also allow for reverse flow.

As part of the development of the Southern Gas Corridor, Bulgaria and its neighbors will have access to alternative supplies from the Caspian region through the IGB. This pipeline is considered a game-changer for the Bulgarian energy market, as it has the potential to increase competition, reduce prices for consumers, and ensure diversified gas deliveries.

Gas supplies from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria are key in growing trade turnover between the two countries, which amounted to $153 million for January-March 2024, according to Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Economy Sahib Mammadov.

“In the first quarter of 2024 alone, mutual trade increased nearly fourfold, reaching $153 million. Our exports to Bulgaria grew more than fourfold to reach $146 million,” Azertag quotes Mammadov as saying on Wednesday during a meeting of Azerbaijani and Bulgarian business circles.

The Deputy Minister also stated that Bulgaria is among the top 10 export markets for Azerbaijan.

Mammadov added that Azerbaijan is currently discussing practical aspects of gas supply and transportation with Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, using appropriate systems under the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Sofia in 2023 between SOCAR and the distribution system operators of these countries.