Gazprom eyes exports to Italy via the Balkans

SOFIA – Russia’s giant Gazprom said yesterday it was working on a project to export gas to southern Italy through the Balkan countries of Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania. Gazprom, which is a major supplier of gas in the Balkans, said it aimed to respond to rising consumption in Western Europe. «Gas consumption in (Balkan) countries is much lower than the existing transit capacities and we are discussing a project for transiting gas through Bulgaria and FYROM to Italy,» Oleg Sienko, head of Gazexport, Gazprom’s export arm, told a news conference. «Additional capacities will also be built to carry the gas through Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy. We are still working on the project,» said Sienko, who is on a visit to Sofia to discuss Gazprom’s plans with the Bulgarian government. He declined to give further details. Gazprom, which is Bulgaria’s only gas supplier, said the Balkan country’s central location in the region made it an important element in its export strategy. Bulgargas invested 96 million levs ($46.5 million) in widening its transiting network by building a new 46km (28.5-mile) stretch of pipeline to Greece and FYROM last year. It plans to invest 26 million levs this year to expand its network and pump more Russian gas to Balkan neighbors.