The Bulgarian government has approved a contribution to the Bulgarian state company for the construction of the vastly troubled Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, which is at the bare minimum for keeping the project alive.
With its decision Wednesday, the Borisov Cabinet has agreed to increase the capital of the state-owned Project Company "Burgas-Alexandroupolis Oil Pipeline" BG EAD by issuing bonds worth BGN 150 000 that will be acquired by the Finance Ministry.
The sum is the minimum amount of money required for maintaining the operation of the company, which holds on behalf of Bulgaria a share of 24.5% in the Trans-Balkan Pipeline company, a joint venture of Bulgaria, Greece, and Russia. The money will also be used to supporting the operation of Trans-Balkan Pipeline after Bulgaria has been repeatedly slammed by its partners Greece and Russia for failing to provide its contributions on time.
In June 2011, the Bulgarian government delayed further the controversial project for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, returning its environmental assessment report for the second time to the Trans-Balkan Pipeline company, prompting Transneft President Nikolai Tokarev to describe the actions of the Bulgarian government as an insult.
The 300-km, planned to link the Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis on the Aegean Sea, is designed to transport 35 million tons of oil a year, with a possible expansion to 50 million tons, to ease the tanker traffic burden in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits.
Transneft does not rule out finding a route bypassing Bulgaria to deliver Russian oil through Greece to the Mediterranean, Tokarev said.
Bulgaria's Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova announced in June the Ministry had once again refused to accept the report of the project company Trans-Balkan Pipeline (TPP) on the construction of the troubled Bulgarian-Greek-Russian oil pipeline, and has returned it to TPP giving it two more months to complete it and fix certain deficiencies.
This was the second such move on part of the Bulgarian Environment Ministry after it had already given Trans-Balkan Pipeline two months to fix its report at the very end of March.
While the initial environmental report of the project company provided for using an offloading monobuoy offloading technology at the pipeline's starting point at the Bulgarian Port of Burgas, the re-submitted version of the document added a second option – unloading the oil directly at the port.
According to Bulgaria's Environment Minister, however, Trans-Balkan Pipeline has not provided sufficient information about the second technology. The public discussion of the company's environmental report in Bulgaria will start only after the document is completed.
Interestingly, the newly adopted approach about oil unloading in Burgas is the opposite of the one which was initially adopted, and was defended by TBP executives as being safest in environmental terms.
In a statement released on May 23, the TBP company announced that a revised Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report (ESIA) for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis crude oil pipeline project was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Water of the Republic of Bulgaria on May 19, 2011.
TBP says it has reconsidered the earlier concept of 2009 that favored SPMs (Single Point Mooring - offshore unloading facilities) and is instead giving preference to an improved Jetty solution for unloading in the Burgas bay area.
According to the company, which is a joint venture of the governments of Bulgaria, Greece, and Russia, the so called monobuoy offloading technology, or SPM option was originally favored because SPMs can be placed beyond the Natura 2000 areas in the outer bay area of Bulgaria's Gulf of Burgas.
"After a series of consultations with the Bulgarian environmental and other competent authorities the original Jetty design was elaborated in more detail and further improved. Also, comprehensive impact mitigation measures have been defined. As a result, TBP has concluded that the risks for Natura 2000 area are within an acceptable level since adequate control measures will be put in place," Trans-Balkan Pipeline explained in May 2011.
It points out that an important benefit of the Jetty solution is that the facilities are located close to the Port of Rosenets - an industrial area - which would allow for bundling with the existing oil transportation infrastructure.
In an interview for Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) in June 2010, Plamen Rusev, back then head of the Bulgarian section of the TBP company, defended the monobuoy unloading technology as being the safest one, and criticized the Bulgarian authorities and local NGOs for insisting on the port offloading of oil saying it harbored much graver dangers.
At present, Bulgaria has technically frozen the project for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.