Bulgaria’s natural gas transmission system operator Bulgartransgaz signed an agreement with the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) for co-financing the UGS Chiren Expansion Project.
In 2021, the European Commission included the Chiren UGS expansion in the 5th list of projects of common European interest, the only one in the field of natural gas selected for EU funding. According to the grant agreement for the implementation of the project, co-financing of up to about 78 million euros is granted under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
The project aims to increase the natural gas storage capacity to up to one billion cubic metres (bcm) and the daily withdrawal and injection capacities to up to 8-10 million cubic metres per day (mcm/d).
The Executive Director of Bulgartransgaz Vladimir Malinov pointed out that the Chiren UGS expansion is in synergy with the LNG terminals in the region, including the terminal in Alexandroupolis, in which Bulgartransgaz participates with 20 per cent of the share capital of the project company Gastrade. According to him, the linking of the project with the significant transmission capacities at the interconnection points with the neighbouring countries determines the importance of the gas storage in the regional aspects and the potential for growth of gas transmission and storage services on an entirely commercial basis. The opportunity for trading the quantities for withdrawal and injection on the platform of Balkan Gas Hub is also essential.
The storage expansion target parameters will be achieved through the construction of above-ground facilities, wells and a gas pipeline with a length of approximately 45 kilometres.
The selected approach for the realisation of the storage expansion project allows its normal operation during the entire period of the planned activities until the commissioning of the new infrastructure. The phased commissioning of the infrastructure is planned to be completed by the end of 2024.
The Chiren UGS expansion is of uppermost importance not only because of its role as a source of gas in the event of a supply disruption. In this regard, the plans for a dynamic development of the gas infrastructure in the region determine the need for the corresponding development and expansion of the Chiren UGS. The availability of sufficient storage capacity and therefore for gas withdrawal and injection is key to the successful market entry of alternative sources of natural gas, including LNG.