Bulgaria delays ruling on trans-Balkan oil link

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 22, 2011 7:59 AM
Bulgaria delays ruling on trans-Balkan oil link

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has given investors in a trans-Balkan oil pipeline aimed at transporting Russian crude through Bulgaria to Greece more time to improve their environment plans, the environment ministry said on Monday.

The company which manages the 300-km Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project has been given one more month by the end of September to resubmit their environment assessment impact study.

The ministry, which has already rejected three times the environment plans for the 1.0 billion euros ($1.44 billion)pipeline, will rule on the improved plans by the end of October, a ministry spokeswoman said.

This is yet another delay of the project aimed at pumping up to 50 million tonnes of Russian crude a year from the Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis on the Aegean, bypassing congested Bosphorus Straits.

The ministry said that if the further update, expected to give more detail on how oil will be unloaded at the Burgas port, does not meet Bulgaria's environmental requirements it will effectively block the project.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov has repeatedly said Sofia will abandon the pipeline because it poses risks to its Black Sea coast and meets strong opposition from local residents who fear it will hurt fishing and tourism.

Russia has a 51-percent stake in the project company and Bulgaria and Greece hold 24.5 percent each.

Analysts say Bulgaria will try to distance itself from the project by having it rejected on environmental grounds thus avoiding paying hefty compensations to Greece and Russia.

($1 = 0.694 Euros)

(Reported by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Keiron Henderson)