Natural Gas Europe
The recent international Black Sea Oil & Gas Forum held in Bulgaria highlighted culminations surrounding natural gas trade and investments in the region, which are gaining strong pace.
The president of the Bulgarian energy regulatory authority, Mrs. Evgenia Haritonova, pointed out that Bulgaria's immediate target is to increase the production of domestic natural gas while at the same time diversifying its import sources, based on the current pipeline projects, such as the Southern Corridor and the interconnectors with its neighbors - Greece, Serbia and Romania, which will be finalized within the next 18 months. Further she added that the Bulgarian government had already signed with an energy consortium comprised of the France's Total SA, Austrian OMV and Spanish Repsol to conduct research for gas in the Black Sea field of Khan Asparuh. Identical competitions with international companies will take place in due time for the offshore locations of Silistar, Sveta Marina and Teres.
Regarding shale gas, Haritonova stated that for the moment the energy Ministry is following the moratorium of the Parliament, and until it is lifted no research could be made. It is interesting to note that Bulgaria's special advisor of the ministry of economy Petar Poptchev noted that Chevron was not so much interested in shale gas exploration, but in conventional gas.
The director of energy strategy and development of the ministry of economy of Bulgaria, Mrs. Veneta Tzvetkova, mentioned that one of the pillars of Sofia's natural gas strategy is to engage with its regional partners into diversifying gas imports. For that reason the TANAP project is crucial for Europe as well and constructs the vital step for the implementation of Nabucco West. Moreover, the dynamics of the offshore gas reserves can be substantial, while the Galata field is scheduled to become a natural gas reserve of strategic value for the country.
BP director of corporate development for natural gas estimated that by 2030 Europe will import at least 70% of its natural gas consumption, which constitutes a major reason for the establishment of the Southern Corridor. Regarding the ongoing selection of the preferred route by the Shah Deniz Consortium between TAP and Nabucco West, Lane mentioned that it will be definitely decided upon in June and can only be awarded based on merit and the long-term viability structures of each competing pipeline project.
The honorary director of the European Commission on internal energy market sector, Jean-Baptiste Vinois, claimed that for the EU it is of absolute priority to move on with the Southern Corridor, since it covers all the criteria for import diversification, while it also welcomes the South Stream project. At that point he added Turkmenistan should also be engaged for future exports to EU markets.
The manager of E.ON Ruhrgas Sahand Hagi strongly supported TAP's role into security a steady and long-term flow of gas to the EU and further assisting towards a better regulation of pricing both in the Southeastern European region and in the Central European one where it is estimated that price signals are not adequately developed.
Companies Total SA and OMV, through their representatives Jean-Baptiste Gouges and Kurt Wagner respectively, presented the plans of their companies regarding the research on the Black Sea gas reserves and characterized them as very promising. The Khan Asparuh field is estimated as having a variety of hydrocarbon types and further researches are to be made shortly to validate the exact quantities before commercial exploitation begins.
Overall, Bulgaria is steadily striving to become a natural gas hub, while also boosting its own researches for potential greater gas production. It is safe to assume that once the Southern Corridor route is announced early summer, the rest of the regional plans will also mature while Bulgaria also keeps a delicate balance with Russia and has already extracted considerable gas price reductions and its inclusion in the South Stream project. As it can be understood should all the projects move on in the coming years, apart from obvious investment benefits, they will also assist into a great price reduction in gas prices and increase considerably the volume of the commodity for the rest of Europe, thus leading to greater energy security and consequently consumption on par with the plans directed in Brussels for more gas use within the coming decades.