Last week deputies and members of the Energy Commission voted on the amendments to the Energy Act which launches the Balkan gas exchange, thus pushing the process of liberalization of the gas market. This belated action is due in part to the pressure from the European Commission as Bulgaria remains a blank spot on the EU gas market. The gas exchange and the trading platform are a key element in the overall concept of the Bulgarian gas hub, the crown jewel in the efforts of the Bulgarian government in the gas sphere over the recent years. The liberalization of the gas market is closely related to the existence of a trading platform and the goal of attracting sufficient gas liquidity for distribution through the “hub”. The
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As alluded to in previous analyses, there is a very diverse and intriguing picture behind the official results of the tender for engineering, procurement and construction of the Bulgarian section of Turkish Stream. A deeper look into the tender procedures would offer ample ground to reason that so far it has defied European standards for project development and management, being closer to the model Gazprom uses along the entire South Stream chain of projects from Anapa on the Russian Black Sea to the Baumgarten Hub. The original idea of engaging a Saudi company rests on the premise that, as a strategic ally of the United States, a company from the Saudi Kingdom could potentially “shield” Gazprom’s operation from Western and US sanctions. One can hardly anticipate that
Bulgaria’s natural gas monopoly has finally announced in public its intent to buy natural gas in the second quarter of 2019 for its needs using an open and competitive procedure. This is the official narrative, at least what Bulgargaz is trying to sell to the public. The volumes are more than modest – 22 million cubic meters in April and 62 million cubic meters in May and June. That is nothing dramatic, yet the management and the government media use the opportunity to trumpet a major shift in Bulgaria’s longtime allegiance to Gazprom, as the country remains the sole SEE state with a near total dependence on Russian gas. The national gas company, Bulgargas, has long been accused of acting as a Gazprom proxy with Stockholm syndrome, refusing
Bulgartransgaz has been noticeably absent from the public debate around the fate of South Stream-turned-TurkStream-turned-Balkan Stream, a project than can be summed up with the lone common denominator, ‘Borissov’ Stream. Consider the arguments. We are told that the TSO, Bulgartransgaz, is facing an existential threat – bound to lose money as Gazexport dries up transit via Ukraine and consequently via Bulgaria. That is a valid argument insofar as there is no alternative or plan B, and the threat is imminent, credible and verifiable – i.e. gas transit cancellation via Ukraine is a given. Yet both hypotheses are speculative in varying degrees. Since January 21, 2019, Gazprom and Naftogaz have been negotiating, with the help of the European Commission, a new ten-year gas transit contract through Ukraine. The
Electricity price hiccups over the last two months seemed timely to attest the required price assumptions for the financial model of the Belene NPP. These days, prices have returned to normal levels, but the idea of higher electricity prices, at par with revenue projections, gained some ground – ostensibly the free market at work. There is a lot in common between the procedural patterns behind the Belene NPP and the Balkan Gas Hub. Most of the activities only nominally happen in the open – formal tender procedure, the rite observed, the end – terms agreed in advance. There is no true competition, no market interplay, no real public scrutiny, just political expediency. Summarizing the main features of the applied policy line in pursuit of a lighter version
The first non-binding phase of the market test for the capacities of the floating LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis has generated unexpectedly high demand – more than 12 billion cubic meters in bids, which is more than double the FNLG’s planned capacity of 5.5 billion cubic meters. Twenty companies submitted intent to book capacity. In the next binding phase, the digits for capacity take-up will fall significantly, yet the message from the LNG gas market could not be more unequivocal – gas traders trust they can offer competitive prices for natural gas and gain market share in Southeast and Central Europe. In other words, they are confident that gas from the global LNG market can compete with Gazprom’s pipeline gas for the cash of customers. Another important deduced
Bulgartransgaz has recently been informed by its largest customer, Gazexport, that after 2020 it will terminate the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, and thereby, through the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline to Turkey, Greece and Macedonia. It is still unclear whether the notification qualifies under contractual terms as legal notice served, requiring a new contract for any further arrangement, or whether it should be interpreted as advance notice for a shift of delivery point, with future gas deliveries coming via the Turkish Stream-2 pipeline. As for the quantities for use in Bulgaria itself, Bulgargas would not have a major problem, provided it can add additional delivery points in Slovakia and elsewhere. In total, the transited annual volumes over the last 12 years have varied around 16-17 billion cubic
The speculative interpretations on the secretive nature of the trip of Gazexport’s top managers to Sofia last Friday, beyond doubt, will build up due to the total absence of facts and details. This is an inevitable consequence as one compares the media frenzy around the visits of the top brass at Gazprom to the country on previous occasions. To begin with, the decision to keep the meetings with Bulgartransgaz secretive reflects the content and the range of topics covered. The classic is: both sides need to agree to keep the exchange out of the public record. Gazprom and BTG, as hosts, have no interest in disclosing details, as the negotiations cover a very sensitive topic – the extension of Turkish Stream through Bulgaria. Two events have marred the
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