BUCHAREST (Romania), March 6 (SeeNews) - The European Commission said on Friday it has made commitments offered by Romanian gas transmission system operator Transgaz [BSE:TGN] to facilitate natural gas exports to Hungary and Bulgaria legally binding under EU antitrust rules.
"Transgaz has committed to make available capacities at interconnection points for increased natural gas exports from Romania to Hungary and Bulgaria. This will promote the free flow of gas at competitive prices in South Eastern Europe and is a further step towards a single European energy market," executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said as quoted in a press release by the Commission.
"Consumers across the region will benefit from greater security of supply of a key transition fuel towards the ultimate objective of an emissions free energy mix, in line with the European Green Deal," she added.
More specifically, Transgaz has committed to make available minimum export capacities totalling 3.7 billion cu m per year at two interconnection points between Romania and Bulgaria - Giurgiu/Ruse and Negru Voda I/Kardam, and 1.75 billion cu m per year at the interconnection point between Romania and Hungary.
Transgaz has also committed to ensure that its tariff proposals to the Romanian national energy regulator will not discriminate between export and domestic tariffs in order to avoid interconnection tariffs that would make exports commercially unviable.
The final commitments provide for significant additional capacity compared to the market-tested commitments, in particular to Hungary, by including capacities envisaged for the Romanian section of the first phase of the Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria (BRUA) gas pipeline project. As a result, Transgaz's participation in this project will also be subject to legally binding deadlines, the Commission added.
The commitments will remain in force until the end of December 2026.
The Commission opened a formal investigation in June 2017 to assess whether Transgaz infringed EU antitrust rules by restricting exports of natural gas from Romania.
In particular, the Commission was concerned that Transgaz may have carried out such restrictions by underinvesting in or delaying construction of infrastructure for gas exports, interconnection tariffs for gas exports that made exports commercially unviable, using unfounded technical arguments as a pretext for restricting exports.
Transgaz is the sole manager and operator of the natural gas transmission network in Romania, which includes all interconnectors with neighbouring countries.
Romania is the second largest natural gas producer in the EU and has significant gas reserves, including recent discoveries in the Black Sea.
Transgaz' shares traded 2.76% lower at 282 lei on the Bucharest Stock Exchange as at 1308 CET on Friday.
(1 euro=4.8110 lei)