Canadian oil and gas producer TransAtlantic Petroleum has been awarded a 35-year concession to start natural gas production from a field in northwestern Bulgaria, the Bulgarian government said on Wednesday according to a report.

Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said he expected the company to start producing gas in the middle of next year at a rate that will supply about 10% of Bulgaria’s gas demand, which averages a total of 3 billion cubic metres per year, Reuters reported.

The European Union’s poorest country is almost completely dependent on Russia’s Gazprom for gas supplies and has stepped up efforts to boost local gas exploration and production as well as build gas links with neighbours to diversify gas suppliers.

Production at the 648 square kilometre Koynare field, which has estimated gas deposits of around 10 bcm, should start once Transatlantic Petroleum builds a pipeline linking its wells to the national gas network, Dobrev has said.

TransAtlantic Petroleum is exploring oil and gas fields in Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania.