Experts comments CACDS - Balkans

Ilian Vasilev: The project of the second branch of the "Turkish Stream" depends on the fate of "Nord Stream-2"


Bulgaria is actively working to ensure that the second branch of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, intended for the supply of Russian gas to Central Europe, passes through its territory. "Bulgartransgaz" exerts maximum effort to "convince" Gazprom that it is interesting to it. The terms and conditions for launching the gas pipeline have already been defined. Despite this, it is safe to say that in the near future the second branch of the "Turkish flow" will pass Russian gas via Bulgaria, it is still too early. On the prospects for the continuation of the "Turkish flow" by the Bulgarian territory - in an interview with the Ambassador of Bulgaria to the Russian Federation (2000-2006) Ilyan Vasilev.

Last week, "Bulgartrngasgaz" conducted the third so-called market test, in which the main future gas supplier - "Gazprom" - made serious concessions concerning transit commissions, as well as minimum transit volumes. In addition, the terms of the gas supply contract have been increased from 15 to 20 years.

According to the published calculations, the cost of building a gas pipeline of 450 km across the Bulgarian territory will cost about 1,4 billion euros. The planned amount of transit will be 15,4 billion m³ per year. The launch of the gas pipeline is scheduled for the beginning of next year. It is important to note that the calculations of the Bulgarian side were carried out taking into account that Gazprom will retain the right to 90% of the capacity of the gas pipeline.

Mr. Vasilev, what, in your opinion, are the chances that the Turkish Stream-2 project will be implemented?

I think it's quite real. But only within the framework of the European regulatory regime. As we know, Gazprom here claims to be 90% of the capacity of the future gas pipeline. But one of the main requirements of the third energy package of the EU is that no supplier can reserve the full capacity of the gas pipeline, but only up to 50%.

Brussels is always saying this: every EU member is completely free to decide on adjusting its gas balance. That is, if it comes to importing into Bulgaria of 3 billion m³ of gas - then there is no problem. But if it is about the transit of gas through its territory in the amount of 15 billion m 3 (which is planned to be supplied through a new gas pipeline), that is, the quantity that will affect the European gas market, then there is no freedom of decision-making in the Bulgarian government. After all, it affects the interests of not only one country, but the entire European market.

That is, if Gazprom will claim only these 50%, then for the European Commission there will be no problem giving this project a green light. But then there is a problem for "Bulgartransgas", because only these capacities, he can not justify the money that he will have to invest.

That is, if Gazprom and Bulgartransgas operate only within the framework of the European regulatory regime, then the prospects for the second branch of the "Turkish Stream" are not high?

So. Since in this case the project is not possible in terms of project financing. After all, if you plan to fill only 50% of the capacity of the gas pipeline, then the revenues to be received are a rather dubious reason for investing 1,4 billion euros. You see, the annual turnover of "Bulgartransgaz" is almost 200 million euros. For such a company, a loan that is almost everywhere exceeds the annual turnover is a high risk. Even if there is a positive outlook for earnings for all 20 years. Moreover, banks today are not interested in such long terms when granting loans.

Where to get money from then?

Since they expect the transit agreement to be in force for 20, Bulgartransgaz may receive an advance payment from Gazprom for the entire period. But this will not be easily perceived in Brussels, since such agreements go beyond the European legal field. Another option - "Bulgartransgaz" may issue bonds that will be redeemed by Gazprom through certain structures. But, I think that in the end, everything will depend on Brussels.

Can the parties somehow bypass these European regulatory "barriers"?

There is one option here. I think they will try to repeat the example of the OPAL gas pipeline. There the system was quite flexible. As a result of the negotiations, the European Commission has made for the German gas pipelines an exception: having the rightful right to fill one half of its capacities with Gazprom gas, they at the same time had the right to qualify for the second half in a competitive mode. But since no one except Gazprom had enough gas to fill the second half of the capacity of the gas pipeline, he became the sole supplier for him.

In addition, in Sofia, with great attention, observe the fate of the "Nord Stream-2", since it will largely depend on whether the second branch of the "Turkish Stream" will go through the Bulgarian territory or not.

How?

Understand, in essence, the second branch of the "Turkish Stream" is a twin of the "Nord Stream-2". If you can start the Nord Stream-2, then a precedent will be created, and I'm sure that in Sofia will surely take advantage of them to negotiate with Brussels. That is, here it is very relying on the fact that Angela Merkel will be able to stretch in one package "North Stream-2" and "Turkish Stream-2".

However, if, for some reason, the development of the North Stream-2 will be stopped or even completed, but somehow it will not be possible to adjust the operating modes that will not allow Gazprom to maintain a full monopoly or emergency measures will be imposed, and the United States will impose sanctions , for example, at Allseas Group (a Swiss maritime contractor specializing in the construction of submarine pipelines, ed.), then the chances for the implementation of the second branch of the "Turkish Stream" will be small.

Maybe the United States will impose sanctions against the contractors of the Turkish Stream?

Despite the fact that the "Turkish Stream-2" is a twin of the Nord Stream-2, I do not think that the United States will resort to sanctions. Everything here may be easier. Washington, for example, can declare that activity, in a word, "Bulgartransgaz" or "Glavbulgarstroy" does not meet the requirements of the Counter-Americans Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (US Federal Law "On Resistance to American Americans through sanctions", which imposes additional sanctions on Iran, Northern Korea and Russia - ed.) - and everything.

Are there any guaranteed gas consumers in Central Europe that will be delivered through the Bulgarian territory?

We can say that and yes, and no. For consumers of this gas - it's just an alternative route of supply, realized by Gazprom. But if it comes to changing ownership or the title of gas ownership, for example, on the EU border and then on trading on platforms, then then - this is a matter of ordinary market demand.

Speak to Igor Fedyk (TsDAKR-Balkan)