Bulgaria stockpiles gas in case Ukraine crisis disrupts supplies

SOFIA, March 5 Wed Mar 5, 2014 1:21pm GMT

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SOFIA, March 5 (Reuters) - Bulgaria, almost fully dependent on Russian gas imports through Ukraine, has started to build up its gas stocks to prepare for a potential disruption of supplies, its prime minister said on Wednesday.

Plamen Oresharski said however that he did not expect supplies to be cut while Ukraine's dues to Russia's Gazprom are being paid and noted they were far smaller than in 2009, when Moscow shut off gas in a price row with Kiev.

Bulgaria is reviewing its existing gas and oil reserves and seeking alternatives to cope with any worsening of the Ukraine crisis, the government said on Tuesday.

"For the time being, we do not have serious reasons to expect a cut in the gas supplies", Oresharski told parliament.

More than 85 percent of the Balkan country's gas needs are met by Gazprom imports via a single route through Ukraine.

The European Union member has not yet connected its network with any of its neighbours, despite its declared will to diversify routes and suppliers.

"We are building up gas stocks so that if we have a potential, I undeline, potential cut in gas supplies, we can use the storage for about month and a half after we rationalise supplies within the country," Oresharski said.

Despite a mild winter, Bulgaria may still be forced to limit gas consumption to industry as the gas that can be pumped daily from the country's sole storage facility is only half the country's needs.

Bulgaria could also look to import gas through Greece, but that option would be too costly, Oresharski said.

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