IGB set to start operating with expanded capacity as of 4Q 2025 - Executive Officer (Exclusive interview)

Oil&Gas Materials 7 March 2024 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
IGB set to start operating with expanded capacity as of 4Q 2025 - Executive Officer (Exclusive interview)
Laman Zeynalova
Laman Zeynalova
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 7. The Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) is expected to start operating with expanded capacity as of the fourth quarter of the next year, Teodora Georgieva, Executive Officer of ICGB, the pipeline operator, said in an exclusive interview with Trend.

“As for potential timeline, we’re hopeful to operate with expanded capacity as of Q4 2025 for the IP at Stara Zagora and as of Q4 2026 for the IP at Komotini,” she said.

Georgieva noted that physical works will begin as soon as all relevant procedures have been completed – design, procurement, selecting and awarding a contractor for construction and purchase of equipment.

“ICGB will follow the relevant national and European legislation and the industry’s best practices when putting together all these procedures, just as we have done during the construction phase of the pipeline. Transparency is just as key for us, as it’s always has been,” added the executive officer.

Georgieva pointed out that with IGB being part of the Southern Gas Corridor thanks to its direct connection with TAP, it will also be of strategic importance to explore the potentials and further enhancement of the current infrastructure’s capacity to enable increased supplies via TAP and TANAP in synergy with the Trans-Balkan pipeline.

Market tests

Georgieva pointed out that ICGB is working to speed up the market test process for capacity expansion.

She noted that ICGB launched the non-binding phase of the incremental capacity process in 2023 – only about a year since the start of the pipeline’s commercial operations.

“The results – although not binding at the moment – were well beyond what we as a TSO hoped to see. This is why we took the strategic decision to act fast and try to optimize whenever possible the timeline for an expansion process, allowing IGB’s capacity to go from 3 bcm/y to 5 bcm/y. This is of major significance to the overall strategic goal to accommodate 10 bcm/y of LNG from the terminals Greece and Caspian gas through the Southern Gas Corridor to reach the markets of Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary and Slovakia,” added Georgieva.

The executive officer pointed out that the binding phase will be in July 2024.

“Meanwhile, we’re working close with other adjacent TSO and with the respective regulatory authorities to try and speed up all relevant processes. Given the region’s dynamics and changed security environment, the market needs new, secure and predictable routes for diversified deliveries and as TSOs our job is to make this possible,” she noted.

The executive officer went on to add that IGB entered the current gas year with over 82 percent of its capacity booked.

“IGB’s providing for nearly a half of Bulgaria’s internal consumption needs especially now, in the winter season. All other quantities are being transported beyond our network, including via the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline, to reach other European markets. Currently, IGB has over 20 registered network users, most of which are European companies,” she said.

Georgieva pointed out that ICGB’s top strategic goal right now is its commitment to expand the pipeline’s technical capacity to reach 5 bcm/y.

“As mentioned, we’ve already selected a contractor for the design phase for GMS Stara Zagora. Upon completion, procurement and construction are to follow and our team will be working to prepare these procedures as a priority.

We also have presented for public consultation the draft project proposals for IP Komotini with the Greek national operator and for IP Stara Zagora with the Bulgarian national operator. With last year’s annual auction and the company’s strategic decision to offer quasi-annual capacity at the IP with DESFA to allow transport of quantities from the FSRU in Alexandroupolis upon launch, IGB entered the current gas year with over 82 percent of its capacity booked. This number remains dynamic as we continue carrying out monthly, weekly, and daily auctions offering the remaining capacity at each IP on the PRSIMA platform and the RBP. I must say that the market’s interest in this route remains high and with the LNG terminal in Greek launching soon, there are prerequisites to expecting a solid increase in the route’s significance for the region,” she added.

Priorities of IGB's operation

Georgieva noted that the priorities are all about expanding the technical capacity of IGB and securing safe, reliable operations of the pipeline on daily basis to meet all nominations.

“We’ve had our first flawless 365 days with no incidents, fulfilling all client nominations and this was rewarding and truly inspirational for the entire ICGB team. We’re determined to continue working just as hard to maintain this track record and continue insuring safe operations – both for our employees and for IGB’s network users,” she said.

Georgieva noted that the other major area of focus for ICGB’s efforts is – of course – the incremental capacity process and the goal to expand the pipeline’s technical capacity to 5 bcm/y.

“We’ve also been working hard with other TSOs within the Vertical Gas Corridor to better plan and coordinate the development of the existing infrastructure in the region for improved security and diversification of supplies. Just recently Moldova, Ukraine and Slovakia joined the initiative and ICGB spearheaded the process as part of our continuous commitment to strengthen the energy security in the region,” the executive officer added.

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