Liberalized gas trade from Sidirokastro seen as of July 1

Negotiating sides have effectively agreed on the content of an interconnection agreement – to help liberalize natural gas trade – between DESFA, Greece’s natural gas operator, and Bulgartransgaz, the Bulgarian operator, following a marathon meeting in Sofia yesterday.

The agreement’s fundamentals have been decided on, while a final response is expected from Russia’s Gazprom by Friday. If the Russian natural gas giant approves, then the finalized interconnection agreement is expected to be signed within the next few weeks.

Gazprom will need to sign new respective protocols with DEPA, Greece’s Public Gas Corporation, as well as Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz before the interconnection agreement between DESFA, Greece’s natural gas operator, and Bulgartransgaz can be finalized.

DEPA and Bulgargaz currently hold respective agreements with Gazprom through which the two gas companies fully occupy all existing pipeline capacity. This will be changed to also offer Greek-Bulgarian interconnection access to other natural gas trading companies and, as a result, further liberalize natural gas trade.

At this stage, it appears most likely that pipeline capacity at the existing Greek-Bulgarian interconnection will be freed as of July 1. Then, the national gas operators of both countries, DESFA and Bulgartransgaz, will need to extend invitations to interested traders requesting binding reservations for pipeline capacity.

Besides Greek, Bulgarian and Russian officials, yesterday’s meeting in Sofia also involved the participation of European Commission officials.

The agreement, a European Commission requirement, will also ensure uninterrupted flow of natural gas in any direction, depending on the needs of network users.

Just days ago, it was reported that M&M, a wholesale trading venture involving the Mytilineos Group and Motor Oil Hellas, took the initiative to become Greece’s first ever private-sector supplier to receive a natural gas order via a pipeline, from a northern pipeline interconnection in Sidirokastro, on the Greek-Bulgarian border. Reports said M&M has imported small amounts, on a daily basis, since the beginning of this month.

Natural gas imports from new traders are expected to intensify competition and offer benefits to industry as well as households and businesses.