ICGB, the company developing the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria project, said on Thursday that Bulgaria's Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) granted it a 35-year licence for natural gas transmission on the country's territory.
A similar permit for the territory of Greece valid for 50 years is expected to be issued by the Greek energy regulator RAE, ICGB said in an e-mailed statement.
"Licensing is a key step towards the preparation of the interconnector with Greece for the operational phase and is a confirmation that ICGB is resource-wise, technically and financially prepared for the gas transmission," the project company noted.
ICGB also said that the construction of the Greece-Bulgaria gas link is progressing at a good pace, with the welding activities completed at 96%.
"Over 145 km of the 182-kilometer route are now ready and lowered in the trench," the company said.
Obtaining a natural gas transmission licence is a mandatory step before initiating the procedure for certification of the company as an independent natural gas transmission operator - a process that ends with the approval of the national energy regulators of Bulgaria and Greece and the European Commission, ICGB explained.
The 220 million euro ($254.1 million) gas link will connect the Greek gas transmission system in the area of Komotini to the Bulgarian gas transmission system in the area of Stara Zagora.
The projected capacity of the pipeline is up to 3 billion cu m per year in the direction from Greece to Bulgaria. Depending on interest from the market and the capacities of the neighbouring gas transmission systems, the capacity of the pipeline can be increased to up to 5 billion cu m per year, thus allowing for physical reverse flow from Bulgaria to Greece with the additional installation of a compressor station.