London — The Serbian section of the TurkStream gas pipeline extension is not expected to be ready until at least spring 2021, missing a previous target for first gas to flow by the end of 2020, industry sources close to the project said.
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The Serbian project forms part of a bundle of pipelines to extend one leg of TurkStream -– which brings gas from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea -- into Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.
The Serbian section is some 403 km long and has a capacity of 13.9 Bcm/year. The project includes four metering stations and one compressor station, and connects to the Bulgarian section of the TurkStream extension at Zajecar and to Hungary at Horgos.
In an investor presentation in February, Russia's Gazprom said supplies via TurkStream to Bulgaria, Greece and North Macedonia began at the start of 2020, with first flows onward to Serbia and Hungary expected by December this year.
But two sources close to the project, who wished to remain anonymous, said that work in Serbia is behind schedule.
The sources confirmed comments by Vojislav Vuletic, president of Serbia's natural gas association, who told local media outlet Vecernje Novosti that the Bulgarian and Serbian sections of TurkStream extension had been connected, but that the compressor station in Serbia was only due to be finished in May 2021.
Serbian TSO Gastrans and state gas supplier Srbijagas were not available for comment.
Bulgaria is also building its section of TurkStream onshore extension, and in October 2019 completed the first part of the project, an 11-km pipeline running from the Bulgarian-Turkish border to the Strandzha compressor station.
This allowed Bulgaria to begin importing Russian gas via TurkStream at the start of 2020 with gas also flowing onward to Greece and North Macedonia.
But to allow TurkStream gas to move further on to Serbia, Bulgaria also had to enable physical reverse flow operations along an existing 155-km pipeline running between Strandzha and the Provadia compressor station.
This part of the project also appears to have been completed after Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Nov. 20 that Bulgaria's gas system had been modernized with reverse flow operations.
However, work on a third part of the project, the 474-km segment linking Bulgaria's Nova-Provadia station to the Kirevo/Zajecar interconnection point on the border between Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as two annexed compressor stations, is still ongoing.
According to an industry source, Bulgaria would be able to start flowing gas into Serbia via parts of its existing grid if Serbia were able to receive it.
The pipeline is being built by Saudi contractor Arkad Engineering, which began construction work in October 2019.
Under the deal signed with Bulgartransgaz, Arkad was expected to complete an initial 308-km section running from the Polski Senovets compressor station to the Bulgarian-Serbian border within 250 days.
Arkad then was expected to construct the remaining 166 km of the project, from Polski Senovets to Zlatina, within 615 days from the start of construction –- meaning by summer 2022.
Bulgartransgaz and Arkad Engineering did not respond to requests for comment.
A final section of the TurkStream onshore extension is being built by Hungary's gas TSO FGSZ.
It envisages a 6 Bcm/year Serbia-Hungary link running for 15 km from the Serbian border to the southern Hungarian gas hub of Kiskundorozsma plus metering stations.
The project is planned to be ready in October 2021, a spokesperson for the TSO said.