Negotiations and interconnection plans: Eustream seeks allies for Eastring pipeline

The Slovak Company Eustream, the Slovak operator of the future gas pipeline Eastring, expects to sign within a few weeks trade agreements with potential partners in order to develop this interconnector. Eastring would be a new bi-directional pipeline to carry gas from Western Europe to the Balkans.

Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia signed in May this year a declaration in support of the plans for the interconnection of gas networks and for the increase of the bi-directional capacity in a joint effort to search new sources and routes for the diversification of natural gas supply. “Despite the fact we perceive the conclusion of this declaration in a very positive way, it has no concrete implications for the further steps for the project’s implementation or its timeline. This is an issue that should be solved on commercial basis,” said Mirek Topolánek, former Czech premier, currently Eustream’s director for public affairs and international development in an interview granted to SeeNews and taken over by the international media.

The project was announced in November last year in Bratislava, right before the cancellation of the South Stream project, and envisages the construction of a gas pipeline with a capacity of up to 40 billion cubic meters per year.

The EUR 1.3 billion estimated project could become operational by the end of 2019.

An alternative to South Stream

Eastring, designed as an alternative to South Stream, should ensure gas supply to fully meet the consumer needs of all the Balkan countries. “After the cancellation of the South Stream gas pipeline project, Eastring is a very important element in the process of diversifying natural gas sources and transmission routes, namely for the countries of the Balkan region which can be connected to Western gas hubs,” Mirek Topolánek said.

Topolánek also stressed a very important facet of the Eastring project is related to its ability to connect countries of Central and Eastern Europe to the liquefied gas terminals in Greece and Turkey, which is achievable by interconnecting Bulgaria with both countries.

In his view, Russia’s first priority is the building of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline through the Black Sea to the European part of Turkey, as two parallel pipelines: one transporting natural gas for Turkey and the second one transporting gas to European countries to meet the terms of the already signed contracts. The second priority relates to doubling the capacity of Nord Stream project, which was designed to have four pipelines, of which two are currently operational.

Romania and the pipeline’s route - from Velke Kapusany to Malkoclar

The Eastring interconnector is to start from Velke Kapusany gas compression station in Slovakia, where it should connect mainly with the Eustream gas transit pipelines going to Western Europe, as well as to Ukraine in reverse flow. From there, Eastring will follow the southern border with Hungary, will enter Hungary in the north-east, and then will head to the border with Romania. Further on it is considered for the route to pass through storage and production facilities in Transylvania and continue to the Isaccea interconnection point, where it will connect to the transit infrastructure of Bulgaria in Negru Voda. The Eastring interconnector is to further connect Bulgaria to the Turkish natural gas transport network in Malkoclar.

According to the first simulations, the Eastring pipeline’s length will be 832 to 1,015 km, depending on the chosen route. Topolánek said that talks continue with the Eustream potential partners for the Eastring project, particularly Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria; they have registered success by the possible introduction of the project in the European Commission plan to develop the European natural gas transport network. The project’s selection would provide substantial funding from Brussels.

The Slovak company Eustream currently organizes meetings with the major gas companies in Western Europe in view of their possible involvement in building Eastring, but it would be premature to reveal names at this point, Mirek Topolánek also said in the interview. Discussions are being held with all relevant institutions, including the European Investment Bank (EIB) in order to increase the chances of their project, he added. However, the financing agreements can be concluded only after the European Commission will take a decision concerning a grant.

Our country can play a major role in the Eastring project, given that most of the pipeline would cross Romania’s territory.

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July/August 2015

June 2017