“That is why we are actively monitoring developments in Ukraine, and relations between Russia, Ukraine and the European community,” the minister said. “We are taking active preventive measures to avoid a crisis.”
“If gas supplies are halted or even reduced, Bulgaria will find itself in a tight situation as the country receives all its gas from a pipeline which runs from Russia through Ukraine and Romania,” Shtonov said.
Bulgaria can access four million cubic metres per day from its sole underground gas storage facility in northwest Bulgaria for daily consumption of 10-11 million cubic metres, he said, adding that some Bulgarian heating utilities, warned to test their capabilities, were preparing to use heavy fuel oil instead of gas in the event of supply cuts.
As for the South Stream underwater gas pipeline project from Russia to Bulgaria, the country had a purely commercial interest in it, the minister said. “South Stream is a transit pipeline,” he said, adding that Bulgaria expected to benefit from fuel transit taxes.
“Bulgaria has a good geographical position which we should use,” Shtonov said, noting that the interim government of technocrats prioritised “construction of gas interconnection pipelines with Romania, Greece, Turkey and Serbia”.
South Stream is Russian Gazprom's global infrastructure project designed to build a gas pipeline with a capacity of 63 billion cubic metres across the Black Sea to southern and central Europe, diversifying export routes and eliminating transit risks.
South Stream construction started in late 2012. First deliveries are due in 2016. The pipeline is expected to become fully operational in 2018.