Saudi-led group to construct gas pipeline in Bulgaria

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s state gas operator signed 1.1 billion-euro construction contract ($1.2 billion) with a Saudi-led group Wednesday for building a natural gas pipeline that would carry Russian natural gas from the much larger TurkStream pipeline into parts of Europe.

The contract between state operator Bulgartransgaz and the consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Arkad Engineering is for a 474-kilometer (296-mile) pipeline that would extend from Bulgaria’s southern border with Turkey to its western border with Serbia.

It would deliver gas to Serbia, Hungary and Austria as an offshoot of Gazprom’s TurkStream pipeline, which was designed to bring Russian natural gas to Turkey and Europe without passing through Ukraine.

Legal obstacles had kept the deal from being completed before a court cleared the way for the contract’s signing.

Bulgaria is heavily dependent on Russian gas. Partners in the West have repeatedly urged the country to diversify its energy sources.

The Balkan country was among those hit hardest when the flow of Russian gas through Ukraine stopped in 2006 and 2009.

EU competition rules forced Russia to scrap its South Stream project, and Bulgaria halted construction work in on its territory.

Bulgaria and Greece also launched construction this year of a pipeline to bring gas to Bulgaria. Bulgaria also hopes to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a facility under construction at the Greek port of Alexandroupolis.

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