The gas interconnector with Greece - almost at the end, despite the challenges and artificial problems

The final funding was structured in 2019, the team is motivated to complete the project and it will be operational by the middle of next year, said the executive director of the Greek-Bulgarian company on the Bulgarian side Teodora Georgieva

Energy / Bulgaria
3E news
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Source: ICGB, archive

Georgi Velev

The project for the interconnector Bulgaria-Greece is a boutique for our country and meets all European requirements for construction and financing. This was said by Teodora Georgieva, executive director of ICGB AD - the project company that builds the gas connection. It is because of the efforts and procedures performed according to European standards that she and the entire ICGB team currently have the trust of European banks and institutions.

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Recently, the project and its leadership have been the target of attacks by various political activists, including the party at the time Georgieva was appointed. The criticism is usually that the new gas connection with Greece / the IGB project / is extremely important for the Bulgarian energy system, that only it will provide an opportunity to import cheaper Azeri gas in our country, where the diversification of sources of gas is zero, but this project has been under construction for 12 years and is not ready yet. For this, according to the candidate for GERB MP Delyan Dobrev, the poor management of the project is to blame, according to him in the face of the current leadership, which has not been able to complete the project for more than a decade. There is money, the project is not finalized, Dobrev stressed. Where is the truth? Because in the first 6-7 of the cited 12 years the company had other bosses and during that time the project did not move even a millimeter, let's leave aside the fact that there was no structure, implementation plan, and no idea where to find funding for the construction of the gas connection. The real work on the project started only in 2016.

Teodora Georgieva explained in the show "Face to Face" on bTV that she joined the project team in 2015. At that time, only an environmental assessment of the project was prepared. However, it was not clear where the money for the pipeline would come from. According to her, only in 2015 a final decision was made, which for the first time structured exactly how to finance this project. "We are talking about 240 million euros. The funding was fully provided in 2019, "she said.

"The financing of the project took place exactly this year, when we were able to activate construction for the first time. Then all key documents were signed, including a contract with the European Investment Bank, a contract between BEH and the project company," explained the ICGB executive director. According to her, for these years of work on the project the company and its team are doing quite well. "This project is a cause not only for me but also for Bulgaria. We have the confidence of the European Investment Bank and the European institutions that we are the people responsible for the project, "said Georgieva.

Funding for the project has already begun, but each tranche is subject to an audit by an independent company. Inspections are also made on the basis of the received European grants, Georgieva reminded. According to her, it is through the inspections that the attestation for the good work that the project team has done is confirmed.


Regarding the comparison of the pace at which the Bulgarian-Greek connection is being built and the other key gas project - Balkan Stream, the expert explained that ICG had a limited budget and could not go beyond it. The construction of Balkan Stream was more financially flexible, they are not monitored by the EIB, the director explained.

Georgieva only hinted at one of the serious problems in the construction of the interconnector. However, it is good to say clearly that this project was openly sabotaged before the years of its construction. Separately, the company's management team was briefly replaced during President Radev's first cabinet, but was quickly reinstated.

All sorts of attempts to be hindered over the years. Former Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev had even demanded the removal of Teodora Georgieva due to a project delay. One way was a series of appeals against each of the construction procedures. The strangest thing is that the appellate companies had nothing to do with the project or with the activities for its construction or operation in the future. It got to the point that only a hairdresser did not appeal the procedures - otherwise there was a winery, a real estate company - in the selection of a consulting engineer and for the supplier of the pipes the procedures and all sorts of exotic cases. There was even talk in parliament and a draft amendment to the law on public procurement was prepared, which would bring order to appeals so that such appeals are possible only when it comes to really affected parties with interest and opportunities to participate in the relevant procedure.

For these appeals we have handed over everything to the competent authorities to assess whether the companies are related to competitors of the project, Georgieva explained in her interview.

The challenges

This was followed by the coronavirus crisis, which disrupted supply chains around the world. Despite the difficulties, the determination of the team is unwavering and the project will be completed in the coming months. Georgieva was adamant that the interconnector will be put into operation on July 1, 2022. According to her, there are still challenges before the completion of the project, but most of them are already behind the team. Two of the most technically complex activities were carried out - ICGB successfully dug a horizontal borehole under the bottom of Studen Kladenets Dam, and the jewelry drilling was carried out on time. It can only be compared to five or six other similar soundings across Europe. Another important crossing was under the Maritsa River, which was also a great challenge for the performers. "We have gone through the most serious challenges of the project. I believe that we will do everything possible to meet the announced deadline, "assured the Executive Director of ICGB.

Only a day ago the company received a license from the EWRC for a transmission operator on the territory of our country. The ICGB project will be connected to the Bulgarian gas transmission system in the region of Stara Zagora. It is also relied on to supply natural gas to the Maritsa East coal region, where the state plans to build a gas plant. It is the Greek interconnector that relies on a large part of the business, especially Sofia District Heating. The company's consultant even offered the capital's heating company to sign a contract for the supply of natural gas with Azerbaijan's Sokar, because the supply of blue fuel from there is cheaper than the Russian supply.

We remind you that the project company ICGB is represented by two executive directors and behind it are two shareholders - 50% BEH and 50% Poseidon. Shareholders with equal shares in Poseidon are the Greek DEPA and the Italian company Edison. The Minister of Energy is in his role of shareholder due to the strategic importance of this project. Every decision in the company is made by a board, which consists of eight members, and the more serious decisions by a general meeting, "Georgieva reminded.



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