* The BRUA project can no longer be funded, after Hungary announced that it would stop on the Hungarian territory, our sources are saying
The BRUA pipeline, which was supposed to go through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, will have the same fate as Nabucco, meaning it won't be built, some market specialists think.
The statement comes as, on Friday, the Hungarian natural gas transport operator FGSZ announced that BRUA will no longer get to Austria, but will instead stop in Hungary.
Our sources are saying: "The European Union (EU) is faced with a situation where a project it is financing is no longer achievable and it is trying to realize why. Most likely that Hungary's decision involves the Russians too. It is clear that Gazprom is upset by this project, just like the OMV Group was upset by Nabucco and in the end, the latter was not completed.
In the case of Nabucco, OMV had committed to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which made the project feasible, and then it told Azerbaijan that it only wanted one billion cubic meters of gas, which led to the project being closed down.
If Nabucco failed because a country did not keep its promises, then that is probably what will happen to BRUA - it won't be built anymore.
Also, we need to take into account that TurkStream is set to begin and that TANAP-TAP has begun - two oil pipelines that are being constructed under Russia's aegis, which has no interest in BRUA.
Under these circumstances, it is clear that the BRUA will have the same fate as Nabucco, because a European project doe not have the same strength to compete with the other major projects.
The problem is that now, Transgaz has two ongoing calls for tenders - one for the acquisition of pipelines, launched at the end of December 2016, and one that was recently launched, for the labor part. Transgaz was hoping that they would be completed in October, but under the new circumstances, the business plan no longer fits, and the calls for tenders need to be held up.
We are in an unclear situation, as the project, at that time, was non bankable. The BRUA pipeline cannot be financed, because no other bank is going to lend it money, in the current circumstances.
Everybody is waiting for clarifications, and the Hungarians aren't going to change their mind that easily".
Transgaz: "The objectives and the commitments made to the projects for developing the BRUA infrastructure on Romania's territory remain unaffected"
The objectives and projects assumed concerning the development on Romania's territory of the BRUA infrastructure remain unaffected, the management of Transgaz states.
It said, in a press release: "Given the importance of the BRUA project on a national, regional and European level, Transgaz will act in such a manner that the deadline for beginning the commercial operation of that natural gas source will not be affected in any way".
The press release of Transgaz mentions: "On July 18th, 2017, Transgaz received a letter from the operator of the Hungarian national operator of natural gas transport - FGSZ - concerning the binding open season scheduled to take place for the purpose of allocating the capacities pertaining to the Romania - Hungary - Austria natural gas transport corridor.
In that letter we were informed that FGSZ can not conduct the planned procedure due to the absence of the necessary approval from the Company's Supervisory Board, motivated by lack of economic efficiency. On the other hand, the Hungarian side has proposed the conducting of the open season binding process only for the RO-HU interconnection point. The 4.4 billion cubic meters a year of natural gas which would come from Romania would be distributed out of Hungary towards Slovakia, Ukraine, Croatia or Serbia. At the same time, FGSZ would continue the talks with the natural gas transport operator of Austria (Gas Connect), to continue to identify possibilities for physical transport from Hungary to Austria. In the context of the situation described and reviewing that proposal, Transgaz informs its shareholders and potential regional investors that, from the company's point of view, the objectives and projects assumed concerning the development on Romania's territory of the BRUA infrastructure remain unaffected. Transgaz will continue to ensure that the planning and unfolding of the open season process will take into account all the objectives that the BRUA corridor has set for itself, including to ensure the supply with the natural gas supposed to be produced in the Black Sea.
In response to the reaction of Transgaz, some specialists are saying: "Transgaz would like to say that nothing has happened and that we are continuing the project. The company claims that if Hungary is going to do what it has announced, we have different ways of reaching Austria, for instance through Croatia or Serbia. But Serbia will also dally, because it is also under Russia's influence".
The press release of Transgaz also mentions: "Transgaz will act towards completing this project efficiently and within the briefest delays, in line with the objectives set at the level of the European Union. That is a clear confirmation of the fact that Transgaz rigorously follows its European commitments, its infrastructure development program, including those to ensure the export capabilities".
On July 20, Transgaz sent a letter to the European Commission, in which it said that its only concern is the impact that the changes made by Hungary will have on the future evolution of the project.
"It is very important to us that we have the certainty that this change doesn't negatively affect the project", the document quoted by Hotnews.ro states.
The European Commission says that it remains committed to the project of the BRUA pipeline
The European Commission remains committed to the project of the BRUA pipeline, as reported by the representatives of the European Commission, in response to the enquiry by BURSA.
The European Officials told us: "The Commission strongly encourages the gas transport operators in Hungary, Romania and Austria and the national institutions that regulate the energy markets would quickly discuss the new proposal and make the changes in the infrastructure concept in tight cooperation with the interested companies, in order to avoid the delays and thus ensure that the new concept meets the needs of the markets".
The spokesperson of the European Commission for Energy and Climate, Nicole Bockstaller, mentioned: "Once finished, the pipeline will allow the diversification of the sources in the connected EU member states, a key objective of the policy of the Energy Union. BRUA is in the interest of the Central East-European Union and of the EU overall, meaning that future new internal gas sources, such as the one in the Black Sea, will offset the growing demand for imports of the European Union".
The EU invested 179 million Euros in that project, which will serve to interconnect Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. "Significant efforts are necessary especially for the Romanian operator, as well as for the Hungarian one, if the project is to be completed on time", the quoted source said: "The proposal from the Hungarian operator does not change the general goal to create transport routes in order to carry the gas from the Black Sea and other sources (for instance, liquefied gas, the Southern Gas corridor etc.) on the regional markets".
The European Commission has announced that it is ready to assist the national operators and the regulators in the talks that will take place along the BRUA project.
The BRUA is being developed in the context of the diversification of natural gas sources of European countries, the increase of the security of the supply of Romania with natural gas through access to new sources, facilitating the access of the Central and South-Eastern market to the natural gas resources of the Caspian region. According to the information by Transgaz, the project will ensure: towards Bulgaria - a transport capacity in both flow directions of 1.5 billion cubic meters/year, and towards Hungary - a transport capacity of 1.75 billion cubic meters/year in the first phase and 4.4 billion cubic meters/year in the second phase.
Transgaz is currently in full process of implementing phase I of the project, with financial support from the European Union.
If BRUA no longer reaches Austria, then the companies expected to export natural gas from the Black Sea, including ExxonMobil of the US or OMV from Austria could be prevented from exporting.
EMILIA OLESCU (translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)