Russia Mothballs Trans-Balkan Oil Pipeline Project
Arvamus 21 Feb 2011  EWR
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Vladimir Socor, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume: 8 Issue: 35

On February 17, the stakeholders and supervisory board of the Russian-led Burgas-Alexandropolis oil pipeline project shelved the project in all but name. The host countries, Bulgaria and Greece, had (each for its own considerations) recently suspended payments to the project company. The meeting decided to lay off staff and give up rented office space of the project company. Moscow has not given up officially on this project, and has scheduled a follow-up meeting for June. But Moscow does plan a pipeline via Turkey (the Samsun-Ceyhan project) as an alternative option (Interfax, Novinite, February 17).

Led by a consortium of Russia’s Transneft, Rosneft, and Gazpromneft, the shelved project envisaged building a trans-Balkan pipeline from Burgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast to Alexandropolis on the Greek Aegean coast. Vladimir Putin oversaw the launching of this project in 2006-2007 while president of Russia.

The line was intended for Kazakhstani and Russian oil, delivered by overland pipelines to Russia’s Black Sea coast at Novorossiysk, and requiring an outlet to the open sea. Those volumes are due to increase from production ramp-up in Kazakhstan and expansion of the Tengiz (Kazakhstan)-Novorossiysk pipeline. With the Turkish Straits already congested, and unable to accommodate more tanker traffic, the Burgas-Alexandropolis pipeline was planned as an extra outlet from the Black Sea, bypassing the Bosporus Strait.

The project envisaged moving at least 35 million tons of oil annually, on Russian medium-size tankers from Novorossiysk to Burgas, onward by pipeline from Bulgaria to Greece, and onto supertankers at the deep-water port of Alexandropolis.

This project would have resulted in the first-ever oil pipelines controlled by the Russian government in European Union countries. US and European companies, which account for most of oil production in Kazakhstan and have built the pipeline to Novorossiysk, would have depended on the Russian government for the terms of transit through the Burgas-Alexandropolis pipeline. Although situated in EU territory, this pipeline would have been immune to the EU’s legal and regulatory framework.

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