Slovenia plans to build pipeline to Hungary to transport Algerian gas

    WORLD  06 December 2022 - 18:46

    Slovenia plans to build a pipeline that would transport Algerian gas to Hungary, helping Budapest to kick its dependence on Russian fossil fuels, said the central European nation’s prime minister.

    The eurozone member-state last month signed a deal with Algiers to import gas through existing pipelines via Italy. The deal, for 300 million cubic metres a year, will enable the country of 2.1 million people to reduce Russian gas imports by a third, while the revived link will help it transport flows to Hungary through the proposed new connection, Financial Times reports.

    “Let’s extend that same hand to our eastern neighbours, [including the] Hungarians,” the Robert Golob said in an interview. “Hungary is totally dependent on Russian gas but it’s not the only one. Austria is in a similar position. The neighbours [must] help them to solve it — they cannot do it on their own.”

    EU countries are racing to wean themselves off Russian gas by 2030 after the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Hungary has built connections to import gas from all of its neighbours except Slovenia, but 85 per cent of its gas still comes from Russia, according to the foreign ministry. Its main source is the TurkStream pipeline delivering gas from Russian state-owned giant Gazprom via Turkey and the Balkans.

    Budapest has secured an exemption from EU plans to impose a cap on imported gas, and procured additional Russian supplies, highlighting what the EU and Nato say are its uncomfortably close ties with Moscow.

    Golob spoke after a meeting with Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán at a new electricity station close to the Hungarian and Croatian borders that connects the three countries’ power grids. Golob and Orbán said they will aim to build a gas link which could be operational “in maybe two-three years” according to the Slovenian PM.

    Golob — a pro-EU former energy industry executive whose new centrist party won April elections against a longtime Orbán ally, the conservative Janez Janša — said the link could be scaled up according to demand.

    “We are flexible. First, let’s establish a solidarity pact, which will be the basis,” he said. “Then let’s apply to the [European] Commission to support the pipeline, then do the market test which decides the size, the volume. The timing is perfect.”

    Orbán said he was interested in diversifying Hungary’s gas sources, identifying three possible routes: the potential Slovenian pipeline for Algeria gas; a route to ship Black Sea gas from fields discovered in Romanian waters; and an expansion of its Croatian links to import shipborne LNG.

    “We are interested in all three,” Orbán said after the meeting with Golob. “We want to eradicate this dependency. Hungary has built links in other directions but those capacities are insufficient to achieve full diversification. I plan to co-operate with [Slovenia] in a pragmatic way.”

    Golob said the energy co-operation will be based on the principle of EU solidarity but he has raised more difficult issues with Orbán, such as Hungary’s record on the rule of law. The EU has withheld about €13.3 billion of funds as it tries to force Orbán to honour commitments to tackle concerns over transparency and corruption.

    “That’s where the EU stands or falls: solidarity — and the rule of law, which we also emphasised during the talks,” Golob said. Budapest says it is working to implement the reforms demanded by Brussels.

    On gas imports, Golob emphasised the need for countries including Hungary to diversify. “It’s better to have many diversified sources, not necessarily each large enough [to fully meet a country’s needs],” he said. “What the Russian example shows [is that] it’s better not to apply the strategy which so spectacularly failed in the past year.”

    “Somehow it looks like we succeeded,” Golob said of Slovenia’s energy diversification. “That also brings motivation to our neighbours that it’s do-able . . . Smaller countries are more flexible.”
    Golob said the Algerian route would also be able to transport hydrogen, adding: “Hydrogen from north Africa could come in the later stages of the green transition.”

    Caliber.Az

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