SOFIA Nov 11 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
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)