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Bulgaria expands pipeline to Turkey in bid for Russian gas

LOZENETZ, Bulgaria, (Reuters) - Bulgaria opened a new looping section of its transit gas pipeline to Turkey on Friday, expanding its capacity and adding the possibility of two-way flows as the Balkan country bids to transport Russian gas from the TurkStream pipeline to Europe.

The new 20-km looping link in southeastern Bulgaria will boost the Transbalkan pipeline's capacity to 15.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year from its current 14 bcm, and will help increase security of gas supplies, officials said.

"Now we have constructed a pipeline that will allow for reversible flows, so we can get gas from Turkey, from Azerbaijan and Russia," Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said at the official ceremony, which was also attended by Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez.

Sofia has also launched a tender for an 11 km pipeline to provide a higher capacity link between the new looping section and the Turkish border. The process has been put on hold however, as one Bulgarian company is appealing the tender conditions.

At present Russia's Gazprom ships about 13 bcm of gas through Ukraine and Bulgaria to Turkey. The shipments however may cease next year, when Moscow expects the first line of TurkStream to become operational. Turkstream is part of the Kremlin's plans to bypass Ukraine, currently the main transit route for Russian gas to Europe, and strengthen its position in the European gas market.

It consists of two lines with an annual capacity of 15.7 bcm each that will run under the Black Sea to Turkey. The first line, already completed, will be used for local consumption.

The second line is planned to run through Turkey to southeastern and central Europe.

Bulgaria has said it wants to serve as an entry point to Europe, but Russia is yet to decide whether that pipeline will ship gas via Bulgaria or Greece.

Sofia hopes to reach an agreement with Moscow, Ankara and Brussels that some of the Russian gas from TurkStream can be transported through Bulgaria to Serbia, Hungary and Austria, while part of it can be traded at its planned gas hub. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Jan Harvey)


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