SOFIA, December 9. /TASS/. The Bulgarian side is ready to ensure transit gas supplies to Greece and North Macedonia from the TurkStream pipeline starting January 1, 2020, chief executive of the country’s state gas firm Bulgartransgaz Vladimir Malinov said in an interview with 24 Chasa (24 Hours) newspaper published on Monday.
"Even if Russia’s gas transit via Ukraine to Bulgaria via the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline is suspended starting the beginning of the year we are prepared. On November 30, Turkey made a ‘golden’ weld joint connecting TurkStream to Balkan Stream. As early as this week Bulgartransgaz will start filling the 11-kilometer section of the gas pipe on its territory with gas, while Turkey — the 140-kilometer sector. We will be ready by December 15, and they, hopefully, by December 20," he said.
The construction of pipelines to the Serbian border on the 308-kilometer section of the Balkan Stream gas pipeline will be completed by May 31, Malinov informed, adding that after that daily supplies through the gas pipeline would amount to 8.75 mln cubic meters. Before that, gas will be delivered via the Bulgarian territory through the existing gas transport system.
The construction of the new 484 kilometers long Balkan Stream gas pipeline through the Bulgarian territory will be fully complete by the end of 2020.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said in November that gas supplies via the TurkStream gas pipeline from Bulgaria to Serbia would start by May 2020.
The TurkStream project envisages the construction of a gas pipeline across the Black Sea to the European part of Turkey and farther to the border with Greece. Gas deliveries via the first stretch of the gas pipeline are meant to meet the requirements of the growing Turkish market, while the second stretch is planned to deliver gas to the countries of Southern and South-Eastern Europe. Gazprom considers Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary potential markets. The capacity of each line is 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas per year.
Initially it was planned that the gas pipeline through the Bulgarian territory — the extension of TurkStream — would be launched by the end of 2019, however, problems arose with the procedure to select the contractor for Balkan Stream. The Italo-Saudi consortium Arcad won the tender for the construction of the pipeline to Serbia through the Bulgarian territory in April, though the relevant contract was only signed in the middle of September following a series of trials, which led to a six-month delay in the project's implementation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at a joint press conference with President of Serbia Alexander Vucic in early December that the Bulgarian side deliberately delayed the project to extend the TurkStream gas pipeline on its territory. Meanwhile, he noted that if Bulgaria abandoned the project, Moscow would be able to find alternative options to supply gas to the south of Europe.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said later that the country is building Balkan Stream as fast as possible, while the delay in the execution of the project was due to competitive procedures. He stressed that the gas pipeline should be complete before the end of next year.