Bulgaria is creating a natural gas hub at its Black Sea coast.

The Bulgarian energy ministry says the state-owned company Bulgartransgaz signed a 1.2 million-euro ($1.5 million) contract Thursday with a Bulgarian-Swiss consortium for a feasibility study. The European Union has pledged to provide 920,000 euros ($1.13 million) for the project.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic says the EU supports Bulgaria's plan "to be transformed from a transit country into a gas trading country."

The new project comes after the South Stream gas pipeline was scrapped in 2014. South Steam aimed to transport gas from Russia through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then to other European countries, bypassing Ukraine. The EU opposed it because Russia's Gazprom planned to operate the pipeline and sell the gas — violating EU anti-monopoly regulations.