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Bulgarian minister: South Stream project needs political support

April 02, 2014, 20:44 UTC+3 SOFIA

“This is a strategic project for Europe and its construction should begin this year,” Bulgarian Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev says

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SOFIA, April 02. /ITAR-TASS/. The South Stream gas pipeline project “needs political support”, Bulgarian Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said in the national parliament on Wednesday, April 1.

He said that South Stream was the only project that could guarantee stable gas supplies. “Northern countries get gas from Nord Stream, and we should also have guaranteed supplies for southern countries from South Stream,” Stoynev said.

All participating countries have authorised the European Commission to conduct negotiations on the gas pipeline with Russia. “This is a strategic project for Europe and its construction should begin this year,” the minister said.

In his opinion, the best solution for Bulgaria would be having direct access to the gas supplier.

The contract to build the South Stream gas pipeline in Bulgaria is fully in line with European legislation, the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy said.

“The position of the ministry has been stated many times - the implementation of the South Stream project is important for Bulgaria both for diversifying gas supplies and from the economic point of view,” the ministry said in reply to EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger’s inquiry about possible alterations to Bulgarian legislation in connection with the gas pipeline project.

“This is why during the talks with Russia in October 2013 Bulgaria, as an EU member state, could reach an agreement between the Bulgarian Energy Holding and Gazprom, under which the South Stream design company will make the gas pipeline capacity available for use by a third part as required by the Third Energy Package. This clearly shows compliance with our commitment to abide by European legislation,” the ministry said.

Stoynev said “the project will be implemented by European rules and will not violate European legislation” and stressed that “the work will be as transparent as possible”.

The sides earlier reaffirmed their commitment to resolving all disagreements between Russia and the EU over South Stream through negotiations, the spokesperson said but did not specify how much time this might take.

The inter-governmental commission will rework the agreements between Russia and six EU countries through which the pipeline will run - Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria - as well Serbia, which is not an EU member. The European Commission insists that these agreements are at odds with the Third Energy Package.

However Russia says that South Stream, as a transboundary project, does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Third Energy Package. Moreover, all these agreements were signed in and after 2008 before the Third Energy Package entered into force.

Unlike Nord Stream, which runs entirely along the seabed and thus does not fall under European legislation, South Stream will be built across the Black Sea to South and Central European countries to diversify gas supplies to Europe and reduce the dependence on transit countries.

To build the onshore sections of the pipeline, Gazprom has signed agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, and Austria.

The South Stream Offshore Pipeline will run through the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria and have a total length of 930 kilometres. An environment impact assessment (EIA) in accordance with national environmental legislation is being conducted in Russia, Turkey and Bulgaria. In addition, South Stream Transport is undertaking an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in alignment with the standards and guidelines of international finance institutions. This will involve an ESIA Report for each Sector of the Project and a consolidated document for the entire South Stream Offshore Pipeline to ensure a consistent approach.

South Stream, initially conceived ENI and Gazprom, later joined by Electricite de France and German Wintershall AG, will eventually take 30 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas a year to southern Europe.

The project stipulates for the offshore gas pipeline section to run under the Black Sea from the Russkaya compressor station on the Russian coast to the Bulgarian coast. The total length of the offshore section will be around 900 kilometres, the maximum depth - over two kilometres and the design capacity - 63 billion cubic meters. There are two optional routes for the onshore gas pipeline section: either northwestward or southwestward from Bulgaria.

In order to feed the required amount of gas to South Stream, Russia’s gas transmission system throughput will be increased through the construction of additional 2,446 kilometres of line-pipe and 10 compressor stations with the total capacity of 1,473 MW. This project has been named South Corridor and will be implemented in two phases before December 2019.

The construction of South Stream started on December 7, 2012 is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The overall capacity of the marine section of the pipeline will be 63 billion cubic meters a year. Its cost is about 16 billion euro.

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