BAKU, Azerbaijan, Feb.6. The Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) has immensely changed South-East Europe’s energy map, Executive Officer of ICGB, the pipeline operator, Teodora Georgieva said in an exclusive interview with Trend.
“This goes into two aspects – impact on a national level for the two host countries Greece and Bulgaria, and international concerning our neighbors and the wider SEE region. On a national scale, both Bulgaria and Greece were able to strengthen their roles on the energy map after IGB’s successful launch in October last year. For Bulgaria, the benefits of IGB have been felt perhaps even stronger internally, as the country now has a diversified and safe new route for natural gas supplies – for the first time we are not dependent on one sole source. This is a major feat and the ICGB team has worked extremely hard to make it possible under quite challenging conditions. The new route for gas deliveries has had a positive impact on the market, optimizing prices for end consumers, and making it possible to proceed with the gasification of entire local regions,” she said.
Georgieva noted that on an international level, it is now possible to offer capacity for natural gas transportation to several countries in the SEE region, including the neighbors in the Western Balkans.
“This is certainly a breath of fresh air for the market at a time when energy independence and security of supply have become so crucial. The timing of IGB’s launch could not have been better in that aspect and I am certain that the effects of this project and its strategic location so close to TAP, TANAP, the Trans-Balkan Pipeline, and a few LNG terminals will be felt even stronger in the future,” she added.
She noted that the current capacity of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria is 3 bcm/y and as of right now it is booked at almost 94 percent.
Georgieva believes that for a pipeline that’s launched in just under 6 months, this is a tremendous success.
“The IGB project was initially believed to be a highly relevant infrastructure both for the two host countries and the wider region all the way back in 2009 when the idea for it was established. Personally, I have always believed in it as a dear cause of mine with a great international impact. Now, given the new realities in Europe, we can all feel with certainty that this pipeline is truly a game-changer – it has helped Bulgaria diversify its internal consumption of natural gas, breaking the cycle of dependence on one main supplier, and it has strengthened Greece’s position on the energy map as well. That being said, through IGB we’re already seeing other countries benefiting as well, and we’re working on partnerships with local companies to provide gasification to national regions that used to not have this option. I must say that after years of hard work and extraordinary challenges, IGB’s launch with 3 bcm/y was an absolute success,” added Georgieva.
Sources of gas
The executive director said that currently, the main source of supplies for the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria is gas flowing through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).
“Our project is also in synergy with planned and existing LNG terminals in the region,” she explained.
Georgieva noted that as of October 1st, 2022, IGB is transporting the full volumes of Azerbaijani gas contracted between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan from the Shah Deniz II gas field.
“About half of the 3 bcm/y capacity of the pipeline – 1.57 bcm/y is booked under long-term contracts for up to 25 years. The rest in terms of free capacity is offered on the PRISMA and RBP platforms,” she explained.
Forecasts for capacity utilization
Georgieva noted that the capacity utilization of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria is expected to remain above 90 percent in 2023 and 2024.
“In 2023, ICGB, as a reliable transmission operator, will fulfill the already undertaken commitments to transfer gas quantities under the already signed long-term contracts,” she said.
Georgieva noted that the market of natural gas in the region and Europe as a whole is very dynamic right now, given the ongoing war in Ukraine as well as the measures that European countries are taking to overcome its consequences.
“As a result of these circumstances, in the third month since the start of commercial operation of IGB, the capacity of the gas pipeline was utilized above 90 percent. We expect that this trend will persist and continue in 2023 and possibly in 2024, but ultimately this will be determined by the needs and demand for natural gas of the countries in the region,” said the executive officer.
Progress in finishing work
The EPC contractor is still implementing some of the remaining activities that don’t have direct impact on the exploitation of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, Teodora Georgieva said.
“These so-called secondary activities do not interfere with the smooth functioning and safety of the gas pipeline,” she noted
Georgieva went on to add that they are still, however, a part of the contract and we as a contracting entity require them to be fulfilled within the scope of the technical project.
“We’re supervising closely the activities and mark significant progress on some of them, while work on others remains rather hesitant in pace,” she explained.
Expanding the geography of supplies
She pointed out that the interconnector Greece-Bulgaria can provide a safe route for gas supplies to different countries.
“IGB’s free capacity is available on two European platforms and is open to all interested shippers that comply with the relevant regulations. Through existing infrastructure including the Trans-Balkan Pipeline, IGB can provide a safe route for diversified gas supplies for countries in the region such as Moldova and Ukraine as well,’ she said.
Georgieva noted that whether this would be used as a viable option for gas supply is not up to ICGB as a transmission system operator.
Hydrogen transmission potential
ICGB is already researching the potential for hydrogen transmission and the topics related, Teodora Georgieva said.
“We believe the obvious technical constraints will be resolved in the foreseeable future, at least to a certain level sufficient enough for transportation of blended gases,” the executive officer explained.
Apart, Georgieva noted that the real prospects for hydrogen pumping depend on the market of this commodity.
“Our transmission service is just a small piece of a very larger puzzle called hydrogen economy. It must also be noted that for IGB to start pumping hydrogen, there needs to be synergy with at least several consecutive infrastructure operators in that aspect. Adjacent operators should also be ready for hydrogen transportation to/from a certain destination to enable the actual process. We have recognized this as a future opportunity, and I am certain we will be ready to fit in once the hydrogen market starts to develop more noticeably,” she said.
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