Oil Report

Bulgaria and Turkey agree on natural gas projects

* Agree to make gas link reversible

* Plan to build new gas network connection

* Bulgaria to participate in LNG terminals on Turkish coast

SOFIA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Bulgaria and Turkey have agreed to improve gas links, Bulgarian energy minister Traicho Traikov said on Sunday, as Sofia aims to reduce its reliance on Russian gas.

Sofia and Ankara have signed a memorandum to make the existing gas pipeline between the two neighbouring countries reversible and build a new gas link, Traikov said.

European Union member Bulgaria has stepped up efforts to reduce its almost complete dependence on Russian gas by diversifying routes and supplies after a dispute between Russia and Ukraine last January left it without gas for weeks.

A lack of separate gas links with neighbouring countries and the inability to reverse gas flows in the opposite direction in pipelines that bring Russian gas to Greece and Turkey, worsened the gas crisis for Bulgaria.

“In case of a necessity, when the gas stops flowing from north to south (from Bulgaria to Turkey), it can flow from south to north,” Traikov told national radio BNR.

Traikov said the Bulgarian state gas company Bulgargaz and Turkey’s Botas have signed an agreement that will allow Bulgaria to import gas from Turkey using the reversible link.

Traikov and his Turkish counterpart, Taner Yildiz, also agreed on Bulgarian participation in LNG terminals on the Turkish Aegean coast, he said. He did not elaborate.

A new gas link and involvement in LNG terminals can allow Bulagria to import Azeri gas, as well as supplies from Egypt and Turkmenistan, industry officials said.

In November, Sofia signed a deal with Azerbaijan to import Azeri gas, saying it might receive 1 billion cubic metres per year but did not give a time frame. [ID:nLD723477]

The Balkan country also plans to build gas network links with neighbouring Greece, Romania and Serbia. [ID:nGEE5AQ0QZ] [ID:nLE418268] [ID:nLJ816068].

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by David Cowell