Europe’s high dependence on Russia as a supplier for natural gas has already caused millions of Europeans to experience an energy crisis on two separate occasions, during the Russian-Ukrainian gas disputes of 2006 and 2009. Energy can be used as a weapon, applied in a way to make sure that people cut off from the possibility of heating their homes during winter will exert pressure on their governments to act in such a manner that other countries resume supplying gas.
This is why Europe has been trying to diversify its sources of natural gas in recent years. Romania has an important role to play in this and could provide the continent with gas coming from two new sources. Azeri gas coming from the Caspian Sea and Romanian gas coming from the Black Sea. However, to transport the gas further to western and northern Europe, a new gas pipeline named BRUA would have to be significantly expanded. The first phase of the pipeline’s construction, leading from the outskirts of Bucharest to north of Timișoara in the western part of the country, was completed in December 2020.
Building future capacity
Future extensions of the BRUA pipeline will connect it with Romania’s Black Sea coast with its significant offshore deposits of natural gas. The Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) is under construction and should be completed in the second half of 2022. It will make it possible for Azeri gas to flow to BRUA through Bulgaria and Greece via the TANAP pipeline leading through Turkey. A big step taken toward the second phase of construction came with the decision of the European Commission on 19 November 2021, including BRUA-Phase 2 on the 5th list of Projects of Common Interest in the field of trans-European energy infrastructure.
It means that EU funds have been set aside for the project that will expand the transport capacity toward Hungary. It also makes permanent bidirectional flow between Romania and Hungary possible through the construction of a compression station at Csanadpalota in Hungary. After the construction of phase two, the capacity to Hungary will increase to 4.4 billion cubic meters per year (bcma), while the 1.5 bmca will be able to flow in the direction to Bulgaria.
Impact on Romanian society
Apart from providing energy security through diversification both for Romania and other countries in Central Eastern Europe, the BRUA pipeline will have a significant impact on the lives of many Romanians. Romania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the European Union, but around half of the country’s households are still heated by old and inefficient coal or wood-burning stoves that are sometimes even filled with plastics and rubber, causing dangerous substances such as PM2.5, PM10 and other chemical compounds.
BRUA will help to connect more Romanian homes to the natural gas network, improving the air quality in the country while also helping to achieve the targets set by the European Green Deal. Once completed, the new pipeline will improve the lives of millions or Romanians and fellow Europeans.