Countries in southern Europe have seen a flurry of several key natural gas project start-ups earlier as demand for energy in the region continued to rise despite the anticipated impact of new Covid-19 shutdowns.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic recently inaugurated the country’s 403-kilometre pipeline extension of Gazprom’s TurkStream subsea gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey at Gospodjinci near Novy Sad.

The pipeline will take Russian gas, flowing from Bulgaria, and send it to local customers as well as transiting some to Hungary.

According to Serbian state gas company Srbijagas, the country plans to receive about 6 million cubic metres per day of Russian gas from Bulgaria in January.

In December, Bulgaria put into operation its own cross-country pipeline extension of TurkStream — known as Balkan Stream — running from its border with Turkey to Serbia.

Although the commissioning of Balkan Stream has only changed the default route for the delivery of Russian gas to the country, moving it away from Ukraine and Romania to Turkey, Bulgaria also said that it has increased its energy diversification by starting to import gas from Azerbaijan this month.

Earlier, Bulgaria’s gas pipeline operator Bulgartransgaz agreed to buy up to 1 billion cubic metres per annum of gas from the BP-led Shah Deniz development in the Caspian Sea off Azerbaijan, to be delivered via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

That will cover over one-third of Bulgaria’s gas demand, which until last year remained fully dependent on Russian gas supplies.

TAP — which is a €4.1 billion ($4.86 billion), 878 kilometre gas transportation system, continuing from Turkey and crossing Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea before reaching southern Italy — started its operations in December.

Bulgaria is currently importing Azeri gas via an existing interconnector border point between the country and Greece, Kulata-Sidirokastro.

Authorities in Bulgaria's capital Sofia, meanwhile, expect the completion of a 180-kilometre dedicated link between TAP and Bulgaria’s own pipeline network — known as Interconnector Bulgaria Greece (IGB) — later this year after the privately administered project was hit by financing and logistical difficulties in 2020.

Besides Azeri gas, IGB is expected to facilitate energy delivery from liquefied natural gas import terminals in Greece.

Croatia, meanwhile, started alternative gas imports earlier this month following the arrival of a maiden LNG cargo to its regasification terminal near the Mediterranean Island of Krk.

Terminal operator LNG Hrvatska said that carrier Tristar Ruby unloaded a first cargo of 143,000 cubic metres of LNG at the terminal that it had brought from the Cove Point LNG facility in the US.