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Greece and Bulgaria have completed the construction phase of a long-delayed gas interconnector pipeline between the two countries.

The $226m pipeline is expected to contribute to Europe’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian gas amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In April, Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended its gas deliveries to Bulgaria after it refused to pay in roubles for gas imports.

Bulgaria’s annual gas consumption capacity amounts to around three billion cubic metres, more than 90% of which is sourced from Russia, according to Reuters.

The Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline connects Greece’s national gas transmission system in the area of Komotini with the Bulgarian national gas transmission system in the Stara Zagora region.

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The 182km pipeline has a transport capacity of up to three billion cubic metres a year (bcm/y) from Greece to Bulgaria, as well as the potential to increase its capacity by up to 5bcm/y based on market requirements.

It is being implemented by the joint venture company ICGB AD and is expected to be operational by early next month.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said completion of the ‘energy bridge’ marks an ‘important moment for the Balkans and Europe as a whole’.

Bulgaria’s outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov was quoted by Reuters as saying: “This interconnector will transform the energy map of the region.”

Petkov noted that the IGB will also be linked to another pipeline carrying gas from Azerbaijan, prior to which some software checks and permits are required.

ICGB executive officer from the Bulgarian side Teodora Georgieva said: “Today we mark together the completion of a key stage in the development of the energy system in the region taking a big step forward towards a stronger, more connected and independent Europe.”

Greece reported an annual gas consumption of around seven billion cubic metres last year.