Russia’s Gazprom has its eye on the Greek gas transport system to prevent other potential investors from helping diversification of gas supplies to Ukraine, KW wrote this week.

On March 30, the government of Greece finished accepting bids from companies willing to participate in privatization of the gas corporation DEPA (Dimosia Epichirisi Paroxis Aeriou S.A.) and its subsidiary gas transport company DESFA. These companies own the end stretch of the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline that runs from Russia to Greece through Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. An unnamed Russian company expressed interest in joining the deal. Earlier, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom had repeatedly expressed interest in DEPA.

Late last year, Turkey denounced an agreement with Russia about use of the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline while Romania announced plans to stop importing gas by this pipeline after 2015. How fast this will actually happens depends a lot on who becomes the new owner of the Greek DEPA. In addition, the pipeline’s capacity to start transiting in the reverse direction, i.e. south to north, also depends on the results of the sale.

Industry analysts agree that the Russian-Turkish gas pipeline Blue Stream, which went around Ukraine in 2002, is the reason for the dwindling volume of gas going from Ukraine to Greece. The official objective of this Russian project, estimated at over USD 8 bn, is to reduce Russia’s gas transit dependence on “unstable” Ukraine and Moldova, and instead increase gas sales to the countries of the region through Turkey.

The capacity of the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline is 27 bn m3, but in 2011 the volume of gas pumped through the system was no more than 18 bn m3. Of this volume pumped via Ukraine, 2.1 bn m3 went to Moldova, 4.7 bn m3 to Romania, 2.0 bn m3 to Bulgaria, 2.9 bn m3 to Greece, and 6 bn m3 to Turkey.