A European Union-backed natural gas pipeline envisioned to reduce Central Europe’s reliance on Russian energy imports is back on track after a critical setback this summer.
In July, the so-called BRUA pipeline to connect Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria hit a snag when Budapest said it was not economically viable to extend the pipeline to Austria. But European Commission officials and energy ministers from the four countries broke the impasse at a September 28 meeting in Bucharest, where they agreed to move forward with the project as originally planned.
BRUA is designed to pump 1.75 bcm of natural gas from Bulgaria and Romania to Austria by 2019 and 4.4 bcm once stage two is complete in 2022.
"It was agreed in a memorandum signed today that there will be reverse flow interconnections in all four states, including Hungary and Austria," Romanian Energy Minister Toma Petcu told a press conference after the meeting. "For the second stage, all four states have committed to developing the project and finalising it as agreed."
Romania intends to begin construction on its portion of the pipeline in 2018 and finish by 2020.
"We are at a very advanced stage with the BRUA project," Petcu said. "We issued the building permit, we are conducting procedures for assigning the construction works, and contracts have already been signed for the design part and for the part concerning equipment for stations."
Petcu added that in December the partners will finalise other details, including pipe procurement, so construction can begin in spring 2018.
BRUA is a priority for Brussels, which wants to cut Eastern Europe’s dependence on Russian gas as part of its third energy package. The European Commission is providing 180 million euros (US$212 million) to help Romania build stage one of its part of the pipeline.
"For the Commission, it is an important project that should materialise," EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said last week. "Pipelines are difficult to implement. The first phase has the financing and will go forward."