Romania emerges as a regional natural gas player
- Written by Laurentiu Rosoiu
Slower than it would have been desirable and harder than expected, Romania seems to have finally discovered the vocation of regional player on the natural gas market. Most recently, and probably the most important step in this direction (and perhaps the step that will clearly define such a feature) is the approach taken to acquire the majority stake in DESFA – Greece’s natural gas transmission system operator, by Transgaz. It is an approach still relatively far from completion, but likely to reach a happy ending for Transgaz and implicitly for Romania.
At least this how the news published by the Greek website Ekathimerini.com on August 30 can be interpreted, according to which, out of the six consortia on the list of bidders, the one made up by Transgaz and the French company GRTgaz is the second option in the order of preferences for concluding the transaction, according to the Greek officials.
Let’s not enjoy prematurely, though. Transgaz may lose against global class competitors (such as Snam, Fluxys, Enagas and Gasunie)... but even so, the step itself is a sign that Romania (the first ever natural gas exporter in Europe) is discovering the vocation of regional actor in the field of natural gas; the possible acquisition of the majority stake in DESFA would be just a crowning achievement of the past five years, during which time the construction of an infrastructure to interconnect the Romanian market to the neighbouring countries and to the European natural gas transmission system has developed fast forward.
In this context, the statement made by the Serbian Energy Minister, and taken over by the seenews.com press agency in an article published on August 30 - saying he expects to soon sign with the Romanian party an agreement on the road map for the construction of the Mokrin (Serbia) - Arad (Romania) interconnection... is just the latest example; this connection is also the ‘last missing link’ in the chain of neighbours connected to the Romanian gas network.
The connection with Ukraine from Mediesul Aurit is undergoing preliminary public consultation procedures for the launch of operations that will allow the virtual flow on the Romania - Ukraine direction; the pipeline linking Iasi to Ungheni (Republic of Moldova) is already functional and it is undergoing extension works up to Chisinău; the construction of the Giurgiu - Ruse interconnector (with Bulgaria) was completed at the end of 2016; the Arad - Szeged connection is lagging behind the plan, due to Hungary’s hesitations and position, most recently regarding the BRHA project, as it has changed the stance and has told Romania that it intends to stop the gas transported by this pipeline on its own territory, in order to distribute them in the region – it has assumed thus a regional hub role.
Overlapping with the reality given by its own gas reserves and by the size of the domestic market (Romania is the largest gas market in the region and has the most developed domestic infrastructure), the interconnection with neighbouring countries (in the sense of being able to export gas to them) brings Romania closer to its regional status. The industry proves to be a spearhead! It is true, it benefits of massive support from the European Union (through policies, programmes, projects and especially funding) and of favourable geopolitical context (given the EU - Russia disputes on gas supply); however, this does not reduce the merits of the people from companies and state institutions involved in the process.