Gazprom at Loggerheads with Bulgaria Over Gas Bill

A dispute worth several million dollars has emerged between Bulgaria and Russian gas giant Gazprom, which are at loggerheads over the amount of the last bill although Gazprom unilaterally cut supplies to Bulgaria last April and the contract between Gazprom Export and Bulgargaz expired at the end of 2022.

Bulgarian Energy Ministry acknowledged the ongoing conflict with Gazprom over the cost of Russian gas it delivered to Bulgaria in April 2022 though, according to unofficial information, the Bulgarian side refuses to pay this sum.

Quoting the contract clauses, the Bulgarian company insists that since Gazprom delivered less than the requested quantities in April, a failure which is Gazprom’s fault, Bulgargaz, which paid for the gas in advance, should pay a lower price, but the Russian side reportedly insists that a higher price must be paid.

Since Gazprom raised official claims against the Bulgarian contractors, it is expected that the case will soon enter the judicial phase.

However, the ministry said that there is ongoing correspondence between the two parties related to the order and method of repayment of sums for the delivered quantities of natural gas under the contract in effect at the time.

Ever since Gazprom discontinued supply to Bulgaria after Sofia refused to open a rouble account for payments as Russia had demanded as a form of reprisal for the international sanctions that followed the invasion of Ukraine, experts warned Sofia about the risks it is taking by paying Gazprom under the “take or pay” clause for the gas it was contractually committed to receiving.

The “take-or-pay” clause stipulates that a buyer will pay a fixed penalty fee if it doesn’t take an agreed-upon amount of a commodity from a seller on a specific date.

If the Russian company decides to file a lawsuit, Bulgaria will most likely have to pay $1 billion to Russia’s Gazprom, the caretaker defense minister Dimitar Stoyanov said at the time.

The caretaker Energy Minister Rosen Hristov underscored at the same time that since Bulgaria risked losing a possible arbitrage court case, Sofia has no choice but to start negotiations with Gazprom to resume supplies.

Though it no longer imports gas from Russia, Bulgaria continues to transit gas via the TurkStream/ BalkanStream pipeline to Gazprom’s clients in Serbia and Hungary.

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