Photo: Bulgartransgaz.

By Martin Chomsky

A scandal has broken out in Bulgaria over natural gas prices after yet another proposal by Bulgargaz to increase the price of the raw material by 14 percent from 1 January 2022. Local industrial users accuse Bulgargaz of illegally exporting gas purchased in Azerbaijan. The company in its turn claims to have fallen victim of industrial espionage.

Bulgargaz executive director Nikolai Pavlov said he had approached the State Agency for National Security (counterintelligence) about the leak of confidential information. In his view, the matter concerns the publication of certain clauses of the agreement signed with Azerbaijan in 2013 to import 1 bcm of natural gas per year. Bulgargargaz explains that the agreement cannot be implemented in its entirety because the interconnector through which the gas is to flow to Bulgaria through Greece is not ready. Its construction has been delayed for more than 2 years. “Part of the gas reaches Bulgaria by a circuitous route,” he explained.

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A scandal has broken out in Bulgaria over natural gas prices after yet another proposal by Bulgargaz to increase the price of the raw material by 14 percent from 1 January 2022. Czytaj dalej

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Gas Association, which brings together industrial gas users, has published a paper claiming that rather than import Azeri gas through existing pipelines, Bulgargargaz is exporting it, harming the interests of domestic market players. “We are dealing with criminal actions to the detriment of the public interest, about which the public should find out,” the association claims.

It is in this paper of the association that confidential data from the agreement with Azerbaijan were found. According to Pavlov, the records kept secret for nine years saw the light of day because the operator fell victim of industrial espionage. Pavlov claims to have received such a signal from the international company that manages the Shah Deniz 2 fields in Azerbaijan. The company is threatening to stop all deliveries through current channels because of the leaked information.

However, the Gas Association claims that it informed counter-intelligence about the illegal export of gas purchased in Azerbaijan much earlier than Bulgargaz did. So far, the counterintelligence service has not responded to the request.

Energy experts, who criticise Bulgargargaz’s policy, also claim that the operator is illegally exporting gas from the national reservoir in Chiren, where the country’s blue fuel reserves are stored.

Azeri gas is several times cheaper than Russian gas, which is the main source of this raw material for the Bulgarian economy.