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TBB CEO Upbeat about Bulgaria's Participation in Burgas-Alexanroupolis Project

Date: 23.07.2010

The Bulgarian government has expressed good will and understanding with respect to the future of the Burgas-Alexandoupolis oil pipeline, according to Vladislav Emelyanov, CEO of Trans-Balkan Pipeline.

Speaking at a news conference in Sofia Thursday night, Emelyanov revealed that a delegation of the Trans-Balkan Pipeline, the joint company of Bulgaria, Greece, and Russia set up to construct and run the controversial pipeline, had been holding talks with the Bulgarian government for two days, including with the Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov. The Finance Ministry is in charge of the Bulgarian participation in the project.

“The Burgas-Alexandroupolis project will bring considerable benefits not just to Russia, as is usually believed, but also to these countries where it will be realized. This is a goose laying golden eggs,” explained Emelyanov while mentioning only the fact that more than EUR 1 B are planned to be invested in the construction of the pipe, which is supposed to bring Russian and Caspian gas to the Mediterranean through Bulgaria and Greece, by going around the Turkish straits.

“There is an understanding that we can find common ground even with respect to the hardest provisions. The major result from our meeting with the Bulgarian Finance Minister is that we have the full understanding that we should work and cooperate. We hope that this work will lead to results that will make all parties satisfied,” declared the Trans-Balkan Pipeline CEO, while also announcing that the Bulgarian government is putting forth Denitsa Beyazova as the new head of the Bulgarian branch of the TBB. (A recent interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) with Plamen Rusev READ HERE)

According to Emelyanov, a major topic with respect to the future of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline that he discussed with Finance Minister Simeon Djankov in Sofia had to do with Bulgaria's delayed contributions to the budget of the joint company.

The TBB CEO said Djankov had promised that Bulgaria will pay the EUR 6.4 M that it owes to the company by November 2010. Bulgaria's Finance Ministry confirmed later that the issue about the delayed payments was discussed with the manager of the TBB but said there was no specific information about if and when the money will be paid.

“I might be too great an optimist but I don't believe there is such an option especially after I have been assured by the Bulgarian Finance Minister,” Emelyanov said when asked if there was a chance that Bulgaria might never pay its debt to the TBB.

For 2009, Bulgaria owes the pipeline company about EUR 4.89 M which have been paid by the other two partners in the project – Russia and Greece – with the understanding that Bulgaria will return the money.

The TBB CEO did not comment what would happen if one of the parties decided to leave the project but mentioned that the penalties for such a move could run up to EUR 1 B. He explained that his meeting with the Bulgarian Finance Minister Djankov was planned well in advance even though it was also related to the visit of the Russian Deputy PM Viktov Zubkov at the beginning of July.

Emelyanov revealed that EUR 15 M have already been spent on the conducting of an internationally sanctioned environmental assessment for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, which has been requested by Bulgaria and Greece.

“I would like to assure you that the project will be complying with all environmental regulations for such a pipeline, and that it should not be compared with the situation in the Gulf of Mexico where there was actual extraction of oil,” explained the CEO of the TBB.

“We are ready to pay more money in order to make sure there is no risk for the environment,” he said while also explaining he hoped that the all necessary documentation for the carrying out of the environmental assessment of the impact of the pipeline on the territories of Bulgaria and Greece will be collected by the authorities by September 2010.

The Burgas-Alexandroupolis project has been criticized in Bulgaria for its economic and geopolitical effects but the major criticism has focused on its potential to devastate the Gulf of Burgas in the event of an oil spill. The Bulgarian authorities have made it clear they expected the environmental assessment to be ready by February 2011, and that they would decide on the fate of the project after that. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has written off the pipeline several times in the last two months speaking about both the environmental impact likening it to the situation with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the potential lack of sufficient quantities of oil.

Emelyanov and the other TBB managers present in Sofia have made it clear that they were not concerned about the lack of oil for the future pipeline, or that the project will be killed by the realization of an alternative route, the Samsum-Ceyhan pipeline in Turkey.

They explained that Kazakhstan will certainly be a source of oil to be transported through the BA pipeline alongside Russia but said it was still unclear how exactly the Kazakhstan state company KazMunaiGas will participate.

The Trans-Balkan Pipeline Director announced that a new Bulgarian-Russian meeting dedicated to the future of the stalled pipeline will take place in late September or early October, most likely in Moscow.

Bulgaria, Greece, and Russia signed the agreements for the so called “Eastern Orthodox pipeline”, which is supposed to bring Russian and Caspian oil to the Mediterranean by circumventing the Turkish straits, back in 2007.

The Trans-Balkan Pipeline company, which is in charge of the construction and subsequent operation of the future pipeline, and is headquartered in the Netherlands, was set up in 2008.

The Russian participant in the project, Pipeline Consortium Burgas-Alexandroupolis Ltd, has a share of 51%. It was founded jointly by three companies: AK Transneft (33.34%), NK Rosneft (33.33%), and Gazrpom Neft (33.33%).

The Bulgarian Joint stock company “Project Company Oil Pipeline Burgas-Alexandroupolis – BG” AD has a share of 24.5%. It was initially founded as jointly by two state companies, Bulgargaz (50%) and Technoexportstroy (50%) but was transferred in full to the Finance Ministry in February 2010.

The Greek participants are Helpe Thraki AE with 23.5% and the Greek government with 1%. The Helpe-Thraki AE was founded jointly by “Hellenic Petroleum” (25%) and “Thraki” (75%).

On July 16, 2010, the Bulgarian government completed the restructuring of its Project Company Oil Pipeline Burgas-Alexandroupolis – BG” AD, which sealed the transfer of the company under the responsibility of the Finance Minister.

The 280-kilometer pipeline, with 166 kilometers passing through Bulgaria, would have an initial annual capacity of 35 million tonnes, which could be later expanded to 50 million tonnes. Its costs are estimated at USD 1.5 B.

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