In the spring, Bulgaria was in the midst of an energy quagmire. The country had condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, yet it was still heavily reliant on Russian energy to meet its country's demands. It was a bold move, considering most of its natural gas was imported from Russia. Moreover, its only oil refinery was owned by Russia's Lukoil. As tensions grew between the two countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin halted gas shipments to the nation. Yet, the little country didn't submit to Putin; it worked around him.

The IGB Project is a gas pipeline that will run 113 miles from Komotini, Greece, to Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. It could also be one of Putin's biggest unforeseen nightmares. Expected to be fully operational by July, the pipeline is a significant step in pivoting away from dependency on Russian energy. It will connect to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and transport gas to the region from Azerbaijan.

Whereas this time last year, Sofia was getting 73% of its natural gas from Russia, the most recent data show a startling pivot. Bulgaria has imported close to 300 million cubic meters of gas from the Central Asian country. It's a bold move from a country not known for its geopolitical leadership and with a population that is half the size of Pennsylvania's.

Additionally, IGB will aid in delivering other energy sources as well. Liquefied natural gas has become a hot commodity, especially in the current economic-friendly era. LNG is considered the cleanest of all fossil fuels and an important resource in the world's planned transition to renewable energy sources.

With the European Green Deal, the European Union has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The IGB connector will be instrumental in delivering LNG imports to the EU. When LNG shipments from countries such as the United States or Qatar arrive in Aegean or Adriatic seaports, this new pipeline will enable a quicker and more efficient delivery throughout the continent.

"The interconnector with Greece would allow us to receive in much-larger-than-now-possible volumes of gas from Azerbaijan, which currently comes through the [TAP] and TANAP gas pipelines through the reverse connection with Greece," said Assen Vassilev, Bulgaria's deputy prime minister and former energy minister, last year.

More importantly, LNG is another important step in pivoting Bulgaria and the rest of the EU away from Russian energy. Earlier this month, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov announced the purchase of two LNG shipments from the U.S. for June. The countries will continue to work toward a sustainable long-term agreement.

Sofia's purchase is in addition to the 15 billion cubic meters of LNG the U.S. announced it would ship to the EU to transition from Putin's petrostate.

"We have negotiated deliveries specifically for Bulgaria, which also showed the support of our partners," Petkov said. Other LNG deliveries will come from nearby countries such as Greece or Turkey, Petkov announced.

In a short time, Bulgaria has transformed from an afterthought in the EU to one of its most important members regarding energy. As the EU pursued alternative energy sources after Russia invaded Ukraine, the IGB connector is vital in the continent diversifying its energy imports. In doing so, Bulgaria has shown countries all over the globe what a world that is not reliant on Russian energy can look like and be the beacon of hope for other countries to do the same.