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Connecting the Krk LNG terminal to the transmission system – interview with Dragica Bago, Head of National Dispatching Centre at Plinacro

Croatia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the northern Adriatic island of Krk started operating this year having its full capacity booked for the next few years. The LNG terminal and the Zlobin-Omisalj evacuation pipeline – connecting the LNG terminal with the existing transmission system – are complex facilities of the gas transport system. The implementation of these projects led Croatia to obtain a new, diversified gas supply route that provides energy security and stability.

At the 36th International Scientific & Expert Meeting of Gas Professionals in Opatija CEENERGYNEWS spoke with Dragica Bago, Head of National Dispatching Centre of Plinacro, natural gas transmission system operator in Croatia, about the challenges of connecting the Krk LNG terminal to the transmission system and the impact it had on the management of the transmission system.

“The construction of the DN800 Zlobin – Omišalj evacuation gas pipeline and the connection of the LNG terminal to the gas transmission system were the largest development projects of last year,” starts Ms Bago adding that despite the challenges brought by the pandemic situation the projects were completed on schedule due to careful planning, timely contracting of works, quality coordination and communication with business partners.

We can say that with the completion of these projects the Croatian gas transmission system has been integrated into the European gas flows.

These projects were also important milestones of establishing regional energy security.  As Ms Bago explains the construction of a new supply route significantly increased the entry capacities into the transmission system, and thus opened the possibility of using the exit capacities towards the surrounding countries.

“The exit capacity in the direction of Hungary was increased during the last year by the commissioning of the newly built CS Ludina compressor station,” tells Ms Bago. In addition, the reconstruction of the Rogatec – Zabok gas pipeline enabled a bi-directional gas flow between Croatia and Slovenia.

“By the completion of these projects the preconditions for the export of gas towards Slovenia and Hungary were created,” underlines Ms Bago pointing out that the first physical export of gas to Slovenia was completed in March this year, while the first physical export of gas to Hungary took place in May.

The Krk LNG Terminal has become the biggest entry point to the system supplying 40 per cent of the market in Croatia. Ms Bago underlined that the security of gas supply has improved significantly since the connection of the Krk LNG terminal to the transmission system has provided another gas entry, with a capacity of 3,000,000 kilowatts-hour (kWh).

The LNG terminal and the Zlobin – Omišalj evacuation gas pipeline provided a diversification of the natural gas supply and met the preconditions for a reliable and market-competitive gas supply.

However major changes in the transmission system require special preparations and adjustments on the side of the operator.

“The biggest challenges for the Croatian gas transmission system in the next years will be the planning of the gas transmission and the preparation of the transmission system for sudden changes in the direction of gas flows on the interconnections with the neighbouring countries,” says Ms Bago.

“Any change in the direction of gas flows requires special preparation of conditions in the transmission system in order to ensure the agreed pressure conditions,” she explains.

Although the connection of the Krk LNG terminal to the transmission system was a big steppingstone, as Ms Bago underlines, there are still many opportunities to further strengthen the energy independence and stability of Croatia and the whole region.

In the future, Plinacro will dedicate itself to diversifying supply routes and investing in the construction of new interconnections with the neighbouring countries.

“First of all, there is the project of the Southern Interconnection with Bosnia and Herzegovina ahead of us, which will enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to connect with the Croatian transmission system, the LNG terminal and through our interconnections, with the transmission systems of Slovenia and Hungary,” says Ms Bago.

The Southern Gas Interconnection project entails the construction of 180 kilometres long gas pipeline, 160 of which in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project is expected to support supply source diversification, increase the security of supply and improve the harmonisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the obligations of the EU Energy Community.

“Moreover, the Southern Interconnection will also enable the development of the gas network of Southern Croatia and make an additional step towards the implementation of the future Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline (IAP),” concludes Ms Bago.

The Ionian Adriatic Pipeline project is based on the idea to connect the existing Croatian gas transmission system, via Montenegro and Albania with the TAP system (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) or a similar project that would enable the opening of a new energy corridor for the SEE region.

The pipeline could also operate in reverse mode, sending gas Southward from Croatia from the Krk LNG terminal. IAP is still on drawing boards, however building on the progress made in finalising the Southern Gas Corridor, there could be potential in its possible extension to the Western Balkans.

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