Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline plan trapped amid ongoing delays

The prospective Greek-Bulgarian IGB natural gas pipeline, whose arrival would facilitate gas supply security for both neighboring countries, appears to still be a long way from actualization.

Pre-construction procedures planned by the project’s corporation, ICGB, a 50-50 joint venture involving Bulgarian state-run company BEH and Poseidon (DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and Edison), including a second market test, keep being delayed.

An intital market test in May, 2013, conducted to determine the level of interest of prospective users, barely satisfied investor objectives. The follow-up test’s delay indicates that the beginning of construction is still a long away ahead.

Given the range of factors delaying the project’s development, concerns have risen as to whether the natural gas pipeline will be ready to operate early in 2020, as planned. The prospective IGB pipeline project, to supply Bulgaria with Azeri gas, via TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline), will also be linked to the Greek network.

The EU is offering its support, including financial backing, to the IGB pipeline as it will end Bulgaria’s current total reliance on Russian gas. Besides TAP-derived Azeri gas, the IGB pipeline will also allow Bulgaria to receive gas from Greece’s LNG terminal in Revythoussa, an islet in the Saronic Gulf, close to Athens.

From the perspective of Greek consumers, the IGB pipeline will facilitate supply from central European gas hubs, such as Austria’s Baumgartner facility. This is currently not possible as a result of positions maintained by Bulgarian state-run companies and Russia’s Gazprom.

The US, keen to see Europe’s dependence on Russian gas lessened, is also applying pressure for swifter progress of the IGB pipeline. According to sources, Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to raise the issue during an upcoming official visit to Athens.