Bulgaria Pushes Nabucco Pipeline

The Russia-Georgia conflict adds new impetus to an alternative route for Caspian gas that connects Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria

Bulgaria has called on the EU to throw all its weight behind the Nabucco energy corridor, a pipeline designed to lessen the bloc's dependency on Russian gas.

"Finding enough supplies is the big problem and it cannot be solved just by the efforts of the companies in the Nabucco consortium ... Without a political deal, this case cannot be solved," Bulgarian economy minister Petar Dimitrov said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday (27 August).

The Nabucco project—connecting Turkey with Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary—should enable the transportation of Caspian energy resources to the European market, but it remains unclear how to feed the pipeline.

Earlier this year, Turkmenistan agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas to the European Union each year. In addition, the union hopes the bulk of the supplies could come from countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Egypt or Iraq.

In order to address this very point, Mr Dimitrov suggested a high level political meeting take place between the EU and potential suppliers as well as transiting countries.

"Russia is holding political talks to buy out the available gas from the Caspian region ... I believe the EU should also hold such political talks and not narrow it all down to just principal support for the Nabucco project," the Bulgarian minister told Reuters.

According to Forbes, Russia's state-run gas monopoly, Gazprom, offered to buy all of Azerbaijan's gas exports earlier this month.

Demand for energy is sharply rising in the European Union and it is expected to import at least 360 bcm—out of 500 bcm consumed—from countries beyond the 27-country bloc by 2020. At the same time, the EU has been trying to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia.

The Nabucco project's capacity amounts to 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year. The EU hopes construction will begin in 2010.

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