LETNITSA, Bulgaria, June 1 (Reuters) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Monday he hoped that the Balkan Stream natural gas pipeline - an extension of Russia’s TurkStream - would still be ready by the end of the year despite construction delays due to the coronavirus crisis.
Bulgaria is building the 474-km pipeline to carry mainly Russian gas from TurkStream via Turkey to Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.
It had planned to have part of it ready by the end of last month, partially using its existing infrastructure until the entire length of the new pipeline is ready by the end of 2020, but lockdowns due to the coronavirus delayed construction.
“Let’s hope that coronavirus is gone,” Borissov told reporters after inspecting progress in construction of the pipeline with Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, the first foreign leader to visit Bulgaria after travel restrictions due to the pandemic were eased.
“And despite two to three months’ delay we hope to meet the timeline and have it ready by the еnd of the year.”
Borissov said the pipeline could transport about 20 billion cubic metres of gas per year. That would be Russian gas as well as gas from a liquefied gas terminal being built in northern Greece and gas from Azerbaijan, he said.
“This pipeline can transport both Russian, and also liquefied natural gas and Azeri gas,” he said. “This is a gas diversification not only for Bulgaria, but for Serbia and the region.”
Bulgaria is also building a gas pipeline with Greece that should be ready by the end of the year. It has started to reduce its almost complete dependence on Russian gas by importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States. (Writing by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Susan Fenton)