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Bulgaria to almost double natural gas storage capacity

CHIREN, Bulgaria (Reuters) - Bulgaria launched a project to almost double its gas storage with a 298 million lev ($165 million) deal between grid operator Bulgartransgaz and a Bulgarian-led consortium signed on Friday.

Capacity at the Chiren gas storage facility, the country's only one, will be expanded to 1 billion cubic metres from 550 million cubic metres (mcm) by the end of 2024 for en estimated 600 million levs, the company said.

Russia cut off gas delivery to EU member Bulgaria last April after Sofia refused to pay in roubles. Sofia has since stepped up efforts to guard against supply disruptions.

"The project is of interest not only for Bulgaria, but for the regional market," Bulgartransgaz CEO Vladimir Malinov told reporters.

He said companies from neighbouring Greece and North Macedonia have expressed interest in booking capacity at the facility located some 125 km north of Sofia.

The work will be undertaken by a consortium led by construction firm Glavbolgarstroy, which won a tender to build above ground facilities, including a gas compressor station.

Bulgartransgaz plans to sign deals for the construction of a pipeline to link the facility with the gas network and for underground drilling, which will allow it to store more natural gas and to use up to 10 mcm of gas per day versus 4.7 mcm currently.

(Reporting by Spasiyana Sergieva, writing by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Jason Neely)