The Interconnector IGB (in red) connects the city of Komotini in Greece to the city of Stara Zagora in Bulgaria. Image credit: IGB website.
On October 1, the gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria will be officially opened. The 182 km pipeline will transport Azeri gas to Bulgaria through Greece. The ambitious project was initiated in 2009 after the three companies involved—Italian Edison, the Greek DEPA, and the Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD—signed a memorandum of understanding.
The construction started in 2017 to connect the new pipeline to the already operating Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The latter is a part of the Southern Gas Corridor, transporting gas from Azerbaijan to Italy through Greece.
The new interconnector will pass through the Greek city of Komotini, where the local metering station has been connected to several TAP existing infrastructures. The new pipeline will also be connected to a Bulgarian metering station close to Stara Zagora. The initial amount of gas shipped will be 1 billion cubic meters, with the potential to be increased to up to 3 billion cubic meters per year.
The inauguration ceremony will see the participation of several important actors. Among them will be the Bulgarian President, Rumen Radev; the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accompanied by Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas; the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic; the President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pentarovski; the Prime Minister of Romania, Nikolae Ciuka; and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov, announced in June the news about the completion of this long-awaited work. As reported by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, the politician said that “June will be the final date for the completion of this project, which is very important for us.”
This statement refers to the opportunity for Bulgaria to diversify its gas imports and decrease its dependence on Russia. Furthermore, the pipeline will also be a game changer for the neighboring countries. First and foremost, for Greece, both economically and strategically. Accordingly, the new pipeline is an addition to the recent infrastructure development taking place in the northern part of the country. The opening of the new LNG station in the city port of Alexandroupoli this year has largely contributed to Greece’s central role in the energy sector.
Furthermore, these new projects strengthen general cooperation among the Balkan countries involved, not only because they concern Greece and Bulgaria, but also because they will play an important role in the economic development of their neighbors. Countries like Serbia, North Macedonia, and Romania will have the chance to diversify their energy supplies and moderate the role of Russia. Given that Bulgaria imports roughly 90% of its gas from Russia, the new interconnector represents a critical resource for Sofia.
Not coincidentally, Teodora Georgieva, executive officer for ICGB, the company responsible for the realization of the interconnector, stressed the geopolitical and economic relevance of the project, “Today we mark together the completion of a key stage in the development of the energy system in the region taking a big step forward towards a stronger, more connected and independent Europe.”
The European Union is also confident about the positive future development that the new interconnector will bring at a European level. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will also participate in the inauguration. It will be an occasion for the parties involved to discuss the energy supply issue and strengthen further existing and future partnerships.
Once again, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is reconfiguring the thick web of alliances in the struggle to diversify energy imports and reduce gas imports from Russia. The biggest beneficiary is undoubtedly Azerbaijan, the major gas supplier involved. The country’s strategic role and potential as the new alternative to Russia have been greatly recognized by the EU. This acknowledgment was sealed off by Ursula von der Leyen, who, in July, traveled to Baku to sign a profitable deal to double gas imports from the Caucasian country.
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