Alexei Belogoryev, Deputy Principal Director on Energy Studies at the Institute for Energy and Finance commented to Regnum on the risks of replacing Russian gas in Southeast Europe.
Russia is losing its monopoly on natural gas supplies to Serbia. So, recently the media reported on the signing of a loan agreement between the Serbian government and the European Investment Bank in the amount of 25 million euros for constructing the Bulgaria-Serbia interconnector gas pipeline on May 20. Earlier, the European Union has already allocated a grant of 49 million euros to Belgrade for the implementation of this project. Construction of the interconnector between Bulgaria and Serbia will begin later this year, with commissioning scheduled for 2023.
According to Aleksey Belogoryev, deputy director of the Institute for Energy and Finance (Moscow), the project is part of a comprehensive plan, in which Serbia is still assigned a peripheral place. According to the European Union plans, from the Greek port of Alexandroupolis, where an LNG terminal is planned to be created from the beginning of 2023, will be a so-called Vertical Corridor, along which gas will be transported through a network of interconnectors Greece - Bulgaria - Romania - Hungary, the expert recalled.
The expert added that the project has long been supported both politically and financially by the European Commission. Therefore, Brussels is also financing the main part of the construction of the Serbian section, which should be ready by 2023 - by the time of commissioning the floating terminal for receiving LNG in the Greek port, he said.
“What we are talking about today is an offshoot of this corridor between Bulgaria and Serbia so that Bosnia and Herzegovina will later join it. The corridor will be supplied with LNG gas, which will be regasified in Greece. As far as I remember, the declared volume of regasification is quite large - 5.5 billion cubic meters per year. In addition, the pipe can be connected to Azerbaijani gas, but in this case it will play an auxiliary role - the main emphasis will be placed on liquefied gas,” Belogoryev said.
According to him, Gazprom insured itself in advance, and if Serbia and Bulgaria reduce the consumption of Russian gas, which will go through the Turkish Stream, the company will increase supplies in the direction of Hungary and Austria to the city of Baumgarten, where the main distribution point for Russian gas in Central Europe.
“On the whole, this project reflects the general idea of the EU that in South-Eastern Europe, in contrast to North-Western Europe, the density of the gas transmission system is too low. Indeed, it is several times smaller, and this creates many regional, isolated areas in which suppliers have a monopoly. This primarily concerns to Russian gas supplies. The main goal is actually to improve the security of supply, so as not to depend on one route and one source of supply. So the goal is good. But in the long term this will lead to a decrease in Russian gas supplies, since these capacities will also need to be used,” Belogoryev believes.
Belogoryev also noted that it is better for Serbia itself if it has more sources of gas supply, as this creates competition and can lead to lower prices and an increase in the reliability of supplies. “Everyone remembers January 2009. Then Serbia suffered the most when the supply of Russian gas through Ukraine was cut off. I think that the Serbian leadership also remembers this, and in this sense this policy is sound and difficult to criticize,” he added.
The Russian expert believes that the project for constructing a gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Serbia as a whole cannot affect Russian-Serbian relations, since it has long been known that Belgrade intends to take part in this project and, in all likelihood, these plans of Serbia have been repeatedly discussed in bilateral Russian-Serbian contacts.
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