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Romania’s TSO ready to take over the gas supplies for CEE – interview with Ion Sterian, director general of Transgaz

While all of Europe is working to ensure the security of energy supply, Romania’s national Transmission System Operator (TSO) Transgaz said to be prepared for all possible scenarios and ready to deal with any situation so that the country’s gas supply will not be affected.

On the sidelines of the GIE Annual Conference, CEENERGYNEWS spoke with Ion Sterian, director general of Transgaz about the role of regional cooperation in the diversification of supply and the company’s future plans also concerning hydrogen.

Mr Sterian began by explaining that Transgaz is the largest TSO in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, exploiting and operating 14,300 kilometres of pipelines and 8 brand-new compressors stations.

“We can take and transport over 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas through Romania, from all possible areas at the time being, from the Caspian Sea, from the LNG and regasification terminals in Greece and Turkey. Also, LNG coming from the Gulf, North of Africa, the US, Australia and so on,” he says.

“All the transport infrastructure already exists and we don’t have to finance and build a new one for gas transportation,” Mr Sterian points out. “At the end of last year, we finalised all the necessary works to ensure reverse flow at the entrance of the Trans-Balkan corridor in Romania. Now, we are prepared to take over the necessary gas supplies for Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Czechia, Moldova and Austria.”

Photo: courtesy of Transgaz.

To achieve all of this, cooperation is key. In September 2021, Transgaz has joined the South-East European Gas (SEEGAS) initiative for the development of an integrated regional gas market. In March 2022, all the SEEGAS stakeholders have proposed concrete measures to accelerate regional gas market integration and gas supply diversification, which is important not just for Ukraine but also for the South-East and East European countries vulnerable to energy disruptions from Russia.

Another practical example of cooperation quoted by Ion Sterian is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between four CEE natural gas TSOs: GAZ-SYSTEM of Poland, Transgaz of Romania, Eustream of Slovakia and FGSZ of Hungary. They all agreed on a strategic partnership to explore the possibilities of decarbonising their operation, transporting green gases and investigating the potential of CO2 transmission.

Based on the initiative of Romania’s Transgaz, the cooperation aims at initiating joint work in a number of fields. Firstly, it foresees sharing best practices in the field of hydrogen and CO2 transportation, decarbonisation of operation and hydrogen production. Secondly, identifying hydrogen markets and applications in various industries. Finally, drafting a relevant regulatory framework.

“The next step is for other TSOs from CEE and the Balkans to should this Memorandum,” Mr Sterian tells CEENERGYNEWS. “For example, Amber Grid from Lithuania already showed its interest in joining, or also DESFA from Greece, Bulgartransgaz, Moldovatransgaz, Plinacro from Croatia. And we should not stop at these but also include other players from Turkey and Azerbaijan.”

Photo: courtesy of Transgaz.

“Following the signing of this Memorandum, we are going to the national authorities to implement the next necessary steps and at this moment there are no negative signals from the authoritative representations,” he continues, referring to the absence of real barriers at this stage.

An important aspect of the MoU concerns the development of hydrogen production and transportation. In January, Transgaz announced that together with the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund (3SIIF) it planned to set up a joint venture company to implement gas hydrogen blend transmission infrastructure projects worth a total of 626 million euros.

“On one hand, we are working on the data we collected,” Mr Sterian explains. “On the other hand, we are waiting for the modification of the European legislation and the new EU hydrogen directive, according to which we can implement our corresponding national directives.”

“We have a historical record of building the first pipeline for gas transportation in 1914,” Ion Sterian adds. “Now we are at the stage of controlled injections of hydrogen in the pipeline and again we are among the firsts with a pilot project in this field.”

Finally, Mr Sterian mentions the Neptun Deep block as a very good thing for energy diversification, something that, despite recent delays will happen for sure. And, in this regard, Transgaz is ready to build the necessary infrastructure in the next two years. 

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