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Economy

Weaning Off Russian Supplies, Greece, Bulgaria Start Gas Line

ATHENS – Scrambling for alternate sources amid worries that Russia will reduce or cut off the flow in retaliation for European Union sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine, Bulgaria and Greece have started operating their own.

The 182-kilometer (113-mile) link stretches from the northeastern Greek city of Komotini to Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria and is aimed at helping the EU move away from Russia, which accounts for as much as 45 percent of the needs.

During its opening, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “This pipeline is a game changer. It’s a game changer for Bulgaria and for Europe’s energy security,” reported Reuters.

She noted the commission provided nearly 250 million euros ($243.62 million) to finance the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria pipeline, or IGB, which was completed in July, the report added.

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom is limiting how much is being sent to the EU which exempted Russian oil and gas from sanctions but others in effect have angered President Vladimir Putin as his forces suffer setbacks in Ukraine.

Bulgaria has been struggling to secure gas supplies since the end of April, when shipments from Russia were cut following Sofia’s refusal to pay in roubles currency as demanded.

The IGB pipeline hopes to hit a capacity of 3 billion cubic meters annually and could expand to as much as 5 billion cubic meters. It is operated through a joint venture of Bulgarian state energy company BEH, Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison.

The new line links an existing southern pipeline that carries gas from Azerbaijan to Europe and the news agency said that operators in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia also want increase Azeri shipments.

The Bulgarian executive of the IGB project, Teodora Georgieva, said the pipeline would help supply other countries in southeastern Europe, reported the Associated Press of its significance.

“We have the opportunity to supply gas to the Western Balkans, to ensure supplies to Moldova and Ukraine,” Georgieva also said.

The IGB is the second European gas conduit to start operations in the last week after fuel began flowing through the Baltic Sea pipeline which moves gas from Norway, through Danish waters and the Baltic seabed, to northwestern Poland, where Russia also cut supplies for the refusal to pay in roubles.

The Baltic Sea pipeline will have an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters, noted Euronews. It was officially inaugurated a day after leaks were detected in the undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe.

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