SOFIA, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Bulgaria has reached an agreement in principle to double its reserved capacity at a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility to be built off the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis, the interim energy minister said on Monday.
Rossen Hristov told reporters that raising the reserved capacity to 1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year at the LNG terminal, expected to become operational at the end of 2023, will help the Balkan country ensure diversified and stable gas supplies.
The interim government, which has come under fire at home for seeking to renew gas supplies from Russia’s Gazprom , has said it plans to open tenders for mid to long-term gas deliveries and wanted to import more LNG gas through Greece.
The Alexandroupolis terminal is due to be built by a consortium of Greece’s Copelouzos family, Greek gas companies DEPA and DESFA, Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and Cyprus’s Gaslog.
It will be able to process 5.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of LNG annually and store 153,500 cubic metres.
Bulgaria is struggling to secure natural gas at optimal prices for the coming winter after Russia halted its gas supplies in April over Sofia’s refusal to pay in roubles amid European sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
The interim government has sought talks with Gazprom to renew supplies under the current contract that expires at the end of 2022 and reschedule gas shipments the country has not taken until next April or June.
Many local energy experts have slammed the plan as risky, pointing that Russia has used gas as a political tool to drive a wedge between EU members and outlining risks such talks could prompt at an eventual future arbitration case.
On Monday, Hristov said Gazprom has not responded yet and reiterated the interim cabinet would not seek a new contract with the Russian energy giant. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova Editing by Tomasz Janowski)
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