NATURAL GAS TRANSITION UP TO 13.5 BILLION CUBIC METRES
Bulgargas's 2002 accounting profit amounts to BGN163MN. It's over 4.6 times the profit reported for 2001 (BGN28.82MN), announced the Ministry of Energy. As a result from the optimized activity of the company, expenses have shrunk by more than BGN100MN. Short-term liabilities have been reduced to BGN106.2MN, which is by 26.41% lower than the liabilities in 2001. However, Bulgargas's receivables have grown by 9% - up to BGN377.61MN. In 2002, Bulgargas transported 13.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia. This amount exceeds by 5% the amount transported across the territory of Bulgaria in 2001, and by 14% - the amount for 2000. BGN12.64MN have been invested in the national gas transportation network in 2002, except for the investments made in transit gas pipe-lines. The construction of these pipes is mainly financed by the transit fee received by Bulgargas for transition through the country.The annual fee which is currently due to the state amounts to some USD200MN. This money has been attracting both consumers and institutions in the past year. Some of the clients of Bulgargas - mainly the central heating stations and Chimko, insist that this transition fee be used for reduction of the domestic prices of natural gas. The transition fee was included as a source of revenue in the 2003 Budget Law again. However, all amounts invested by Bulgargas in the transition network will be removed. In fact, the guaranteed annual revenues exceeding USD200MN have been adequately apportioned by the managers of the energy ministry which has planned big investments in the development of the gas sector by 2005. The amounts vary from USD0.3BN to USD1.5BN. Most of the projects aim at increasing the capacity of the gas transportation network in the country.All parametres of the transition of Russian natural gas were settled by the long-term transit agreement signed by Bulgargas and Gazexport, the foreign trade company of the Russian gas monopolist, in end-May 1998. According to that agreement, Gazprom pays for the whole capacity of the transition pipe regardless of the amounts that are actually transported. As the 3-year investment programme that consumed BGN350MN was completed in the end of 2001, Bulgargas is able to transport up to 18 billion cubic metres of natural gas per annum by using the three directions constructed so far. The pipe that leads to Turkey has an annual capacity of 14 billion cubic metres, the one leading to Greece - 3.2 billion cubic metres, and the one to Macedonia - 500 million cubic metres. In 2002, Bulgargas transported smaller amounts (13.5 billion cubic metres) because of the smaller amounts ordered by Turkey and Greece. There is another direction in the plans for the gas transportation network which leads to Serbia. However, it is still pending, even though the 90-km section could be built within a year. The future of this section depends on Gazprom and its agreements for export of Russian natural gas to Serbia. The same agreements are also decisive for the increase of the transported amounts to Greece. The capacity of this pipe can be raised up to 5.2 billion cubic metres per year by reconstructing parts of the currently operating system.The programme of the energy ministry for development of the national transportation network also stipulates the building of a highway gas pipe-line from Middle Asia through Turkey and Bulgaria to Central and Western Europe. The project starts in the Caspian shelf in Iran. It was first discussed in 1997-1998. It was the European gas giant Shell that signed an agreement for preliminary project research with Bulgargas. The idea faded away in an early stage. Experts said that the road was difficult and expensive for exploitation. Another reason were the high prices for transportation of Iranian gas to Central and Western Europe. However, Turkey has as a priority task the diversification of natural gas delivery and built a pipe for transportation of Iranian gas to Ankara.The idea was taken up again in 2002. This time Greece was among the initiators. Its Depa national company signed an agreement with the Turkish monopolist BOTAS for construction of a gas pipe-line able to transport 600 million cubic metres. The monopolist signed another project research agreement - this time with representatives of Turkey, Hungary and Austria.BOTAS also owns the Bulgarian gas transportation network. The ring-like network provides safe and permanent delivery of natural gas. It is 870-km long, 383 of which form the northern part of the ring and 424 - the southern part. There is also a 200-km pipe located on the territory of Romania, which practically serves for delivery of blue fuel to Bulgaria.The pipe was built while Comecon was still existing. It was financed by Bulgaria. But according to the legislation of Romania, the equipment is now maintained by Bulgargas. The Bulgarian company pays a transit fee, too. In order to modernize and rehabilitate the national gas transportation network, the company relies on its own resources and subsidies under the PHARE programme. Bulgargas has invested EUR1MN of its own money in the maintenance of the pipe located in Romania alone. Other EUR1.6MN provided by PHARE have been utilized, too.Bulgargas supplies natural gas mainly to industrial companies operating in the field of energy, chemistry and metallurgy. For the period 2001-2002, 43 new consumers have joined the network. Other 37 customers are expected in 2003. But the regions in Southwestern Bulgaria, where the pipe to Greece is the only gas pipe at all, are deprived of blue fuel. Simply because the whole capacity of the pipe has been bought and paid by Gazprom in advance.According to the currently operating laws and the 2001 licence, Bulgargas is the only natural gas importer in Bulgaria. There is only one supplier of natural gas to Bulgaria, too. That's Topenergy which is 100% owned by Gazprom. The import is controlled by the Ukranian Isakcha gas measuring station and the Negru Vodu station in Romania. Less than 1% of the blue fuel consumed in Bulgaria is provided by its own fields. After 2004, however, this percentage will be raised significantly thanks to delivery from the Galata field (situated near Balchik). The gas monopolist signed an agreement with the concessioner of the sea field, Petreco, and according to well-informed sources, the parametres of the document are similar to those concerning the delivery of Russian natural gas.Bulgaria's new draft law on the energy stipulates that the import regime be liberalized and the monopolist transport the ordered amounts in return to a transport fee.Whether there will be alternative suppliers and how many they will be - this is a question that only Gazprom can answer. It owns the main part of the gas pipe-line coming to Bulgaria. The value of the transportation fee will be approved by the State Energy Regulation Committee. The fee should correspond to the actual transport expenses of Bulgargas, members of the committee say, plus a small extra amount that wouldn't exceed 7 per cent.