3 companies bid for gas drilling in Bulgaria

Associated Press + More

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Three international energy companies have submitted bids for exploration and exploitation of natural gas in Bulgaria's Black Sea waters, the government said Thursday.

Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said that U.S. Exxon Mobil, France's Total, and Canada's Melrose are bidding and that the winner will be announced by the end of next month.

Bulgaria, which is almost fully dependent on Russian gas supplies, has been looking for ways to diversify its energy sources.

Following the 2009 gas war between Russia and Ukraine, which left Bulgaria without gas for three weeks, the Balkan country started to link its natural gas grid to that of its neighbors.

Also on Thursday, Dobrev said the construction of a 25-kilometer (16-miles) cross-border gas link with Romania will be launched in August. In addition, Bulgaria plans to build gas links with three other neighbors: Turkey, Greece and Serbia.

Last year, the European Union recommended that each member state should have at least two sources of natural gas by 2014 to avoid a repetition of the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.