THE SLOVAK natural gas carrier Eustream has introduced a project for a new gas route from western Europe via Slovakia and Ukraine to the Balkans. The project, called Eastring, would be an alternative to the Russian project South Stream and it would reduce the almost complete dependence of some Balkan countries on Russian gas supplies. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on December 1 that the Kremlin is scrapping its South Stream project.
“Economically and strategically [Eastring] is the best solution for this part of Europe,” Tomáš Mareček, chairman of the board of directors of Eustream, said in an interview with Reuters on November 28, adding that it connects Eustream’s existing system to Ukraine’s under-utilised Soyuz pipeline leading to the Romanian border. The plan would include a pipeline to be built across Romania to connect to a major Balkan pipeline running close to the Black Sea to supply the region.
Estimated costs are €750 million, which is about 20 times lower than the estimated expenses on the South Stream gas pipeline since it does not have to go under the sea, according to the Hospodárske noviny daily.
The project is still just in the form of an idea and has not been discussed on a political level, according to Miriam Žiaková, Economy Ministry spokesperson.
“It is the initiative of the Eustream company and so far it has not been presented to the Economy Ministry,” Žiaková told the Hospodárske noviny.
According to energy analyst Karel Hirman, it is an excellent project, especially for clients, because it represents the cheapest solution.
“It is not a political project like South Stream, from which gas would be more expensive than now,” Hirman told the daily.
Eastring, whose annual capacity is proposed at 20 billion cubic metres, would also secure incomes from gas transit for Eustream as well as state coffers, which had been endangered by South Stream bypassing Ukraine as well as Slovakia.
“The gas map of Europe has been gradually changing, to the disadvantage of Slovakia,” Jozef Badida, analyst of the energy website energieprevas.sk, told the daily. “It is correct that after a long period of passivity, the new management of Eustream is arriving with plans on how to reverse this.”
It will be of key importance what stance Romania will take onthe project since it would probably be them who would bear the biggest portion of the project’s costs, as the new pipeline would be built through its territory.
Mareček believes that Eastring could also be built without money from Brussels while it is important that gas companies in the Balkans confirm their interest in the usage of the new route.