A natural gas pipeline between Bulgaria and Greece will be eligible for financing under an EU investment scheme once it completes a market test of demand in September, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said on Friday.
Bulgaria and Greece signed last year a final investment decision to build the 182 km pipeline, important for Sofia’s efforts to cut its almost total dependence on Russian gas and boost supply security.
Bulgarian state-owned energy holding company BEH has 50 percent in the joint venture which will build the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, while Greek state energy firm DEPA and Italy’s Edison hold 25 percent each.
IGB, estimated to cost 220 million euros ($245.01 million), has already received nine expressions of interest to transport gas through it for a total capacity of 4.3 billion of cubic meters (bcm), exceeding its initial capacity of 3 bcm.
The three shareholders in IGB, as well as Greece’s Gastrade, U.S. Noble Energy and Azerbajan’s SOCAR have expressed initial interest to transport gas among others, BEH has said.
Petkova told a business forum in Sofia that once the interest is confirmed, IGB will be able to apply for financing under the EU’s investment scheme, launched by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in 2015.
“The successful closure of the second part of the market test will prove the viability of the project will allow it to apply for financing under the Juncker plan,” she said.
The aim of the plan is to use 21 billion euros of EU money to attract 15 times more of private funds over three years for investment in European infrastructure, energy and research and development.
Construction of the pipeline, which has already received 45 million euros in EU aid, is expected to start in October and be completed by the middle of 2018. It can pump either Azeri gas from Greece, or imports from Greece’s liquefied natural gas terminal.