The operator of a natural gas pipeline between Greece and Bulgaria is pleased with the market interest in boosting its throughput capacity.

Known as Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, the link is vital to ensuring pipeline and liquefied natural gas deliveries to southern Europe, including Ukraine and Moldova, as alternatives to Russian pipeline supplies via the subsea TurkStream line across the Black Sea to Turkey.

The link connects to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), making Bulgaria a part of the Southern Gas Corridor that transports gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, with Brussels laying strong hopes for this former Soviet country to boost gas supplies to replace lost Russian volumes.

Operator ICGB executive officers George Satlas and Teodora Georgieva said: “The market interest for a few consecutive gas years is nearly two times higher than our initial expectations. While for now these indications are non-binding for the shippers, this is a great first step towards a potential expansion of the connector’s capacity to 5 billion cubic metres per annum of gas from 3 Bcm per annum”.

“In less than a year [after the beginning] of commercial operations, the interconnector became an essential part of Bulgaria’s path towards energy diversification,” Georgieva added. “Over 82% of the total capacity for the upcoming gas year is already booked and we are looking ahead towards plans for expansion, further strengthening Bulgaria and Greece’s roles on the region’s energy map.”

The capacity expansion plan has several stages and while “this first step brings great indications, it will take more time and actions in order to make a final investment decision and proceed with the expansion”.

According to the operator, the expansion project will encompass the installation of additional filtering, heating, reducing and measuring equipment along the current route and the integration of an advanced communication and management system into the existing infrastructure.

The expansion will be carried out at both ends of the pipeline, specifically at a gas metering station No 1 in Komotini in Greece, and station No 2 in Stara Zagora in Bulgaria.