SOFIA, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Bulgaria and Romania started opened a new natural gas pipeline on Friday as part of Sofia’s efforts to reduce dependence on Russian gas.
The 25-km pipeline, which runs under the Danube River and can operate in either direction, will allow Bulgaria to import gas from Europe.
It will also support Bulgaria’s bid to create a regional gas hub at the Black Sea port of Varna.
“We can achieve a lot with our friends and neighbours from Romania... they are starting operations from today,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov told an opening ceremony at the Danube river town of Marten.
The two Balkan neighbours have stepped up efforts to link their gas networks with those of other countries after Moscow scrapped its planned South Stream pipeline project.
South Stream would have carried Russian gas across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to central Europe but was scrapped in 2014 in the face of opposition from the European Union.
In April, Bulgaria and Romania signed a contract with Austrian construction firm Habau to complete their 24-million euro ($26.22 million) interconnector.
Work had begun in 2012 and was due for completion in 2013 but the original builder experienced technical difficulties in laying pipe under the Danube River.
The pipeline has a maximum capacity of 1.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year from Bulgaria to Romania while the capacity going the other way is 500 million cubic metres per year.
Bulgaria, which currently buys more than 90 percent of its gas from Russia’s Gazprom, is also building gas pipelines with neighbouring Greece, Serbia and Turkey.
$1 = 0.9155 euros Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Jason Neely