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Published: Wednesday March 5, 2014 MYT 5:20:02 AM
Updated: Wednesday March 5, 2014 MYT 5:21:08 AM

Bulgaria weighs dependence on Ukraine route for Russian energy

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria, heavily dependent on Russia for gas and oil, will estimate its own reserves and seek alternatives to cope with any worsening of the Ukrainian crisis, it said on Tuesday.

Bulgaria imports over 70 percent of its energy resources, most of which come from Russia - through Ukraine - and is considering alternatives for its energy security.

"Several key threats can be outlined that can pose risks to Bulgarian security. They are mainly economic," Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetin Yovchev said after a meeting of the government's security council over Ukraine.

It meets over 85 percent of its gas needs with imports from Russia's Gazprom through only one route that passes Ukraine.

Its only oil refinery, run by Russia's LUKOIL, that supplies over 60 percent of the its refined fuel in the country, gets its crude through an Ukrainian Black Sea port.

The fresh nuclear fuel for the Kozloduy nuclear power plant that produces about 40 percent of Bulgaria's electricity is also shipped through Ukrainian territory.

Bulgaria has pledged to build new gas links to provide alternative gas supplies and routes, but has not yet linked its gas network with neighbouring Romania, Greece and Turkey.

In case of emergency, Bulgaria can rely on its gas storage facility, which has reserves for about two months, the energy ministry said, and it may also use a transit pipeline to Greece to reverse flows and get natural gas from there.

The government may still be forced to limit gas consumption to industry as the gas that can be pumped up from the storage facility is up to 4.2 million cubic metres (mcm) per day, compared to country's average daily consumption of about 8 mcm per day.

Bulgaria has nuclear fuel for about two and a half years, which limits the risk for the operations of the 2,000 megawatt Kozloduy nuclear plant, the energy ministry has said.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by William Hardy)

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