Romanian energy minister: Plans to expand Southern Gas Corridor are of particular importance
Trend’s exclusive interview with Romania’s Minister of Energy Virgil Daniel Popescu ahead of the 7th meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council
Question: Azerbaijan launched its milestone Southern Gas Corridor in late 2020, bringing for the first time Caspian gas to Europe. What are the ways and prospects for Romania’s joining this project? Which works are underway in Romania in this regard?
Answer: First of all, I want to congratulate the Republic of Azerbaijan and all the countries involved in the implementation of this strategic energy project for this huge achievement with significant impact in terms of an increased security of Europe's energy supply.
From the first participation, in 2018, at the Meeting of the Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor, Romania underlined the active support and commitment to be concretely involved in the success of the Southern Corridor project, by adding new infrastructure elements to develop energy interconnectivity in the expansion stages envisaged for this project. This is the case of the BRUA gas pipeline, which represents, together with the Interconnector between Romania and Bulgaria, an important link between the Southern Gas Corridor and Central Europe and the Balkans. The first stage of development of the BRUA gas pipeline was completed in November 2020, according to the implementation schedule, without any delays. The pipeline will ensure an adequate degree of interconnection with neighbouring countries and will create a new natural gas transmission route at regional level, from various sources of supply including the Caspian Sea area.
BRUA gas pipeline, an important component of the Vertical Gas Corridor, is an integral part of Romania's National Gas Transmission System and has a number of important strengths: a gas transport infrastructure already completed, safe and viable, that it addresses markets with significant consumption potential, such as the markets from the Eastern and Central Europe.
The plans to expand the Southern Gas Corridor are of particular importance, as new gas suppliers are needed for the Balkan and South-Eastern European countries, which are still dependent on a single supplier. These plans must capitalize on and take into account the opportunities and needs of the European gas market as soon as possible, given the clear direction set at EU level for the energy sector from the perspective of fossil fuel use - a low-carbon economy. That is why all the opportunities we have in the natural gas sector must be capitalized without delay. Therefore, we hope to resume the bilateral talks with the Azerbaijani authorities to reach their agreement on the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding to analyse the opportunities for using the transport infrastructure offered by the RO-BG Interconnector and the BRUA gas pipeline in the future stages of the Southern Gas Corridor given the positive trade impact for the two sides and the importance of strengthening regional energy security.
Q.: What are the main features of energy cooperation between Romania and Azerbaijan at the moment? How could the two countries even more expand their cooperation in the energy sector?
A.: Romania particularly appreciates the Strategic Energy Partnership with the Republic of Azerbaijan and the long and fruitful collaboration in the energy sector, as well as the active participation of Azerbaijan in joint efforts to strengthen Europe's energy security, especially through its key role in developing the Southern Gas Corridor.
Romania is actively involved in the development of a modern and efficient natural gas transmission network in the region, a fact that Romania has already demonstrated by completing the first phase of the BRUA gas pipeline, the main segment of the Vertical Gas Corridor, which will connect gas transmission systems from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria and which can take over part of the gas volumes that will be transported through the infrastructure of the Southern Corridor. We hope that Romania will become part of this extraordinary team that has put into practice this ambitious energy project, which has opened a new supply path for Europe.
I want also to mention that two of the most important Romanian companies in the natural gas sector, ROMGAZ SA and TRANSGAZ SA, have a very good collaboration with the Azerbaijani company SOCAR. The two Romanian companies want to expand their activity on foreign markets, to explore new opportunities and to identify optimal and efficient variants of cooperation with SOCAR company. In fact, in 2016, TRANSGAZ S.A. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SOCAR related to the development of cooperation, including in the context of connecting the Southern Gas Corridor to the Vertical Corridor.
Q.: How do you see the prospects for SOCAR’s participation in exploration and production in Romania’s Black Sea region?
A.: The exploitation of significant gas resources in the Black Sea can bring a decisive contribution to strengthening energy security of the region for the coming decades. For Romania, natural gas is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy and has a significant role to national energy security. Romania has a long tradition in offshore operations and very good specialists in this sector.
When it comes to capitalizing on energy resources in the Black Sea, we are mainly considering the Neptune Deep perimeter, but there are other concrete projects designed to highlight the huge opportunities of this area.
In recent years, the Azerbaijani side has expressed interest for the opportunities provided by the discovery of new offshore Black Sea gas fields. The development of these resources remains a priority for Romania, as well as attracting investments and collaboration with important international companies that have the know-how and necessary technology.
Q.: How do you assess SOCAR’s current operation in Romania?
A.: SOCAR is involved in key European energy projects designed to increase Europe's energy security. We are happy to see that Romania is among the priority directions of SOCAR business development, not only in the area of retail operations, but hopefully also in the future as regards the transmission of Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe.
Since 2011, SOCAR has been present on the Romanian market and has established already an extensive gas station network at national level. Currently SOCAR PETROLEUM is the owner of 61 gas stations in 24 (out of the 40) counties in Romania. SOCAR PETROLEUM is already an important player on our market and the SOCAR filling stations – a familiar and respected brand for the Romanian motorists.
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