This piece was first published in our last EnVal. To get the EnVal in your inbox every two weeks, for free, please register your email here.
Energy security in Central and South East Europe is rooted in infrastructure. Storage facilities are key elements of the energy infrastructure. For the natural gas delivery system, they are key nodes of the existing web of pipelines. Considering the perspective of new projects coming online, including the Neptune perimeter commercial operation (which is to begin soon), an assessment of current storage facilities and plans for building others is necessary to envisage the way the regional energy security will evolve.
Romania has eight storage facilities with a combined capacity close to 3.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, mainly used to cover for increased consumption in the winter months. Six of Romania’s facilities (with a total capacity of 2.76 bcm) are operated by Romgaz, through its special unit Depogaz, one by Depomures and one by Amgaz. Two of the six facilities are located in Central Romania, in Transylvania (Sarmasel and Cetatea de Balta) while the rest are in the South of the country (Bilciulesti, Balaceanca, Urziceni, Gherghesti), therefore most of them close to Bucharest, the capital of the city.
The current storage capacity in Romania is, however, not enough, if we assume a significant increase in domestic production in the next decade. Romania’s Depogaz is planning to invest 720 million EUR by 2022 to significantly expand capacity, especially along the BRUA pipeline. Considering the role that the BRUA pipeline would be serving, a network of gas storages would need to be distributed in the region to help better serve local needs and mitigate potential supply problems.
Bulgaria currently operates only one gas storage facility (Chiren), with a capacity of 0.5 bcm, owned by the TSO Bulgartransgaz. It is located in northwestern Bulgaria, about 400 km (250 miles) away from the Black Sea. Its storage capacity has been in decline, having been in use since 1974. Most of the volume of this facility is booked for mandatory reserves by state-owned Bulgargaz (sole supplier of natural gas in Bulgaria) and by Bulgartransgaz itself, and it is used to the cover seasonal fluctuation of natural gas consumption. Although there are plans to expand the Chiren facility using the EU Project of Common Interest funds, nothing has yet been done.
There is, however, another site that has recently become a good candidate for conversion into a storage facility: the Bulgarian section of the Black Sea known as the Galata Exploration Block. The block comprises four offshore fields (Galata, Kaliakra, Kavarna and Kavarna East), with current remaining reserves standing at cca. 1 bcm. According to Petroceltic Bulgaria – the company holding the oil and gas exploration permit for the block, the Galata field has already been transformed into a gas storage facility, save for some changes that need to be made. After its full conversion, its full storage potential capacity would range between 1,3 – 2,2 bcm. The Galata block is located 22 km (13.7 miles) offshore, near Varna. It is close to the Bulgarian natural gas transmission system and Russian gas transit pipelines. It has the potential to be a steppingstone for the Bulgarian ‘Balkan’ gas hub, as it could store gas from a variety of sources: Romanian Black Sea offshore gas, Azeri gas from IGB or even Russian gas.
In 2017 Serbia also announced its intention to expand the 0,45 bcm Banatski Dvor storage facility to 0,75 – 1 bcm. Gazprom is the majority owner of Banatski Dvor underground gas storage with 51 % stake, while the state owned Srbijagas controls the remaining 49 %. In July 2017, Srbijagas and Gazprom signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the expansion of the storage facility. However, there are no further reports, confirming that works to this aim have started.
With a capacity of over 4 bcm, Hungary is the largest storage provider in Central and Eastern Europe and will continue to play the role of energy security pillar for the region, at least in the foreseeable future. Hungarian Gas Storage Ltd. has four underground gas storage sites: Zsana, Hajdúszoboszló, Pusztaederics and Kardoskút. Geographically, the four sites are not only effectively spread around the country, but are also serving on the existing and potential gas pipeline networks.
Originally published in our last EnVal. To get the EnVal in your inbox every two weeks, for free, please register your email here.