Bulgaria, Macedonia to do feasibility study on gas link

SOFIA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Balkan neighbours Bulgaria and Macedonia are to do a feasibility study on a new natural gas link to boost security of supplies and reduce their reliance on Russian gas.

Bulgaria, which still gets over 95 percent of its gas from Russia’s Gazprom, has already opened a gas link with its northern neighbour Romania and is working to connect its gas network with Greece and Turkey to diversify its suppliers.

“The study will assess the existing infrastructure on the territory of the two countries as well as the new infrastructure needed,” the Bulgarian energy ministry said in a statement after the governments’ joint meeting in the Macedonian town of Strumica.

The energy ministry said the development of gas pipelines with Greece and Turkey and the development of the gas hub would be taken into account when the routes for the construction of the link with Macedonia would be selected.

Bulgaria also hopes to build a gas hub at the Black Sea port of Varna and attract both Azeri and Russian gas for it.

Sofia’s plans for the hub follow the cancellation of Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline project that would have shipped Russian gas under the Black Sea via Bulgaria to central Europe. The cancellation was a blow to Bulgaria, which relies almost exclusively on Russian gas. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov. Editing by Jane Merriman)