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OPAL capacity decision put off until mid-September

July 16, 2014, 18:02 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Earlier on Wednesday, the European Commission said it postponed the decision indefinitely together with the German regulator
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MOSCOW, July 16. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Commission (EC) decision on the OPAL pipeline, dry-land spur of Nord Stream connecting Russia to the EU bypassing transit countries, has been postponed until mid-September, Russian Ministry of Energy press office told ITAR-TASS.

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Commission said it postponed the decision indefinitely together with the German regulator, the Federal Network Agency’s (Bundesnetzagentur) as some technical aspects required further consideration. The EC did not specify the terms.

OPAL pipeline auction agreed with the German regulator was scheduled for July 15. However, the Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said it had not been notified about the auction on that day. Bundesnetzagentur has confirmed the auction did not take place.

According to OPAL operator Gastransport’s press office, the auction did not take place as the EC had not decided whether to admit the earlier unused pipeline to the market as partially regulated. The auction on March 4 did not present OPAL as the EC had also postponed decision.

Late last year, Gazprom requested the EC to exempt OPAL from the anti-monopoly Third Energy Package that limits ownership of gas infrastructure for gas suppliers. According to the legislation, Gazprom is to reserve up to 50% of OPAL for independent gas suppliers, though it is Nord Stream that fills the pipeline with an annual throughput of 36 billion cubic meters.

To avoid financial losses, Russia and Germany rightfully demand that the EC exempts OPAL from the legislation and expands the pipeline’s share for Gazprom needs.

Bundesnetzagentur proposed a compromise, where Gazprom would be allowed to participate in auctions selling 15.3 billion cubic meters of OPAL capacity. This would exempt OPAL from the Third Energy Package and introduce partial regulation. Annual auctions are proposed to be held on PRISMA European Capacity Platform.

OPAL was initially exempted from providing access to the pipeline for third parties but the EC then revised its decision and demanded up to 50% of the pipeline’s capacities for other companies under the Third Energy Package.

The OPAL, whose capacity is 36 billion cubic meters, is plugged into Russia’s Nord Stream undersea export pipeline and stretches along Germany’s eastern border. Under the E.U.’s third energy package, Russian gas giant Gazprom is limited to use only 50% of its capacities.

But the only filler of the OPAL pipeline is the Nord Stream, and to avoid financial losses Russia and Germany urged the European Commission to strip OPAL from the third energy package legislation. The commission decided to hold an auction on the remaining 50% of the pipeline’s capacities to take the OPAL out of the package by imposing a so-called partial regulation.

An auction to distribute part of OPAL’s capacities to make the pipeline fit the third energy package must have been held on Tuesday, but according to Bundesnetzagentur’s statement, it was cancelled.

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