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Russia’s Gazprom to receive European Commission response on OPAL project in 2 months

November 20, 2013, 1:16 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Germany’s gas pipeline OPAL is an onshore extension of the Nord Stream gas pipeline connecting Russia and the European Union bypassing transit countries
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© ITAR-TASS/Elena Palm

MOSCOW, November 19, 23:16 /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s gas giant Gazprom may expect a European Commission response to its new request to exclude the OPAL gas pipeline (an onshore extention of the Nord Stream pipeline) from the Third Energy Package not earlier than in two months, a source close to the negotiations told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

A source close to Germany’s Wintershall (co-investor and operator of the OPAL project) confirmed this information.

“So far, there is an agreement between Gazprom, Gazprom Export and Germany’s federal network agency, but it is yet to be agreed with the European Commission, which has two months for that,” the source said. “Should the European Commission approve this agreement, Gazprom will have to take part in tenders for the right to use the OPAL’s remaining capacity, and depending on the claims from other participants, it may well have 100 percent of its capacity.”

Thus, the OPAL project may be granted the right to reserve capacities, along with the NEL gas pipeline, another extension of the Nord Stream.

Meanwhile, Alexei Grivach, a deputy director general of the National Security Fund, told Itar-Tass that the NEL fate “looks more optimistic, though in 2009, or before European Commission interfered in the OPAL project, the situation was opposite.”

“Having received from the regulator no right to be excluded from regulation, the NEL will operate under general rules, which do not ban Gazprom’s contracting capacities in the open season tender,” he said. “Apart from that, the NEL pipeline will be used by other owners (E.ON, GDF Suez and DONG) who have contracted portions of gas to be pumped across the Baltic Sea.”

Germany’s gas pipeline OPAL is an onshore extension of the Nord Stream gas pipeline connecting Russia and the European Union bypassing transit countries. The European Commission however applied the Third Energy Package to this pipeline. Initially, the pipeline was not obliged to grant its capacities to third parties but later the European Commission revised its previous decision and demanded that 50 percent of the OPAL capacities be granted to third companies.

In the spring of 2013, Russian filed a similar request to the European Commission asking to restore the OPAL’s initial right to reserve 100 percent of capacities to pump Russian gas from the Nord Stream pipeline further on to Germany and the Czech Republic. According to the Russia side, this German pipeline will not pump non-Russian gas, since gas to its initial point - Greifswald - is pimped only from Russia.

The Nord Stream pipeline consists of two strings 1,224 kilometers long and a throughput capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year. It will connect the European Union’s power grids to the world’s largest deposits of natural gas directly across the Baltic Sea. Both strings of the pipeline can supply 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year over a period of fifty years as a minimum.

Nord Stream has two land-surface extensions on the territory of Germany - the NEL and OPAL gas pipelines.

Gazprom owns a 51% stake in the Nord Stream, Wintershall and E.ON Ruhrgas has 15.5% each, while the Dutch company Gasunie and the French company GDF SUEZ have 15.1% and 9.0% respectively.

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