Shell starts seismic work in Bulgarian Black Sea

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Royal Dutch Shell has kicked off its Bulgarian exploration campaign at the offshore Silistar block in the Black Sea. The company has begun seismic work in offshore Block 1-14 under the terms of a five-year contract signed in February.

Shell promised to spend 18.6 million euros (US$20.25 million) on seismic surveys as part of the agreement and has committed to paying Sofia a 4.9 million euro (US$5.3 million) signing bonus.

The Anglo-Dutch company’s programme continues Bulgaria’s hunt for indigenous resources after US-based Chevron was thwarted when Sofia banned hydraulic fracturing in 2012.

Total is also exploring Block 1-21 Khan Asparuh. It is the largest block in Bulgaria’s Black Sea zone and lies close to ExxonMobil’s Neptun discovery in Romania, where estimates have placed gas resources at 42-84 bcm.

Last year, Bulgaria imported 3.11 bcm of the 3.2 bcm of gas it consumed from Russia’s Gazprom via the trans-Balkan branch line. Its over-reliance on Gazprom was exposed when a Russian-Ukrainian dispute halted supplies in the 2000s.

Other energy projects include Sofia’s bid to position Bulgaria as a gas transit hub, which will receive a boost when the reverse flow Bulgaria-Greece interconnector launches next year.

The line has received 45 million euros (US$49 million) in financing from the EU, and should eventually connect the Bulgarian system to the Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz 2 field.

Sofia is also awaiting completion at the Ruse-Giurgiu pipeline to Romania, part of a planned New European Transmission System aimed at synchronising Central and Southeast European grids. Elsewhere, Bulgaria is mulling participation at a floating LNG (FLNG) project in the Greek port of Alexandroupolis.

Despite these developments, however, Sofia accepts it will still rely heavily on Russian imports. On August 6, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov admitted the country’s ambitions to emerge as a gas hub would be difficult to achieve without deliveries from Gazprom.

“When talking about a gas hub, where are we going to find that much gas to transport, if there’s no Russian gas?” he asked. “Let’s be honest.”

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The Central & Eastern European Gas Conference (CEE Gas) in Zagreb, 15-16 February 2017, will bring together all key stakeholders including gas suppliers, TSOs, regulators, government members, commercial executives and industry consultants to discuss a diverse and secure natural gas future for the region.

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