Bulgaria warms to importing natural gas from Egypt

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria might start importing natural gas from Egypt in 2008 if a gas pipeline linking Egypt with Turkey becomes operational as planned, its Economy and Energy Ministry said on Monday. The arrangement would allow Bulgaria to diversify its supplies of natural gas, which currently come almost exclusively from Russian gas giant Gazprom. Minister Rumen Ovcharov discussed the construction of the pipeline with his Turkish counterpart Hilmi Guiler over the weekend, the ministry said in a statement. «Bulgaria may start taking supplies of Egyptian natural gas through Turkey in 2008 if the planned deadline for launching the gas pipeline from Egypt to Turkey is met,» the ministry said in a statement on its website. Ovcharov has said the pipeline project is very complex but provides a real alternative to supplies from Gazprom, which mounted a push for Bulgaria and other ex-communist states to pay more for natural gas at the start of the year. After a brief dispute over the contract in January – which followed larger fears of economic and political turmoil when Gazprom cut off supplies to Ukraine – Bulgaria and the Russian company kept their current transit contract unchanged. Under the deal, Bulgaria used around 2.9 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas last year but transited an estimated 14 bcm to its neighbors the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey and Greece, making up for most of their consumption.