BRUSSELS, September 15. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Commission (EC) has postponed until late October a decision on allowing Russia to fully use the capacities of the OPAL gas pipeline, which is an extension of Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipe, the EC’s press office said on Monday.
The EC said in a statement it had agreed with Germany’s Federal Grid Agency to extend the deadline for a decision on OPAL until the end of October due to the need to study certain technical aspects.
The OPAL gas pipeline, which has an annual capacity of 36 billion cubic meters and runs along Germany’s eastern border, provides a link from Nord Stream running under the Baltic Sea to Europe’s existing gas transport networks.
Russian energy giant Gazprom has currently limited access to the OPAL pipeline as the EU legislation requires the separation of gas production, transportation and sale to prevent gas suppliers from dominating the infrastructure.
The German Economy Ministry insists on providing full access for Gazprom to the OPAL pipeline over the threat of interruptions in Russia’s natural gas transit via Ukraine.
A new delay in the decision on the OPAL gas pipeline can be explained by upcoming gas talks between Russia and Ukraine with the EU’s mediation, the date for which has not yet been set, a European diplomatic source said.
“In this way, the European Commission is trying to secure acceptable positons for Kiev for talks with Gazprom based on the Russian gas monopoly’s interest in keeping operational the transit route via Ukraine,” the European diplomat said.
A failure of tripartite gas talks may considerably increase the risks of the Ukrainian transit contraction or interruption and prompt the European Commission to allow Gazprom to fully fill the OPAL gas pipeline but “only for a limited period”, the EU diplomatic source said.
This temporary permission may be issued for a term of six months to meet Europe’s basic requirements for natural gas during the winter period, thus easing dependence on the Ukrainian transit but in spring the European Commission will be able to bring the gas pipe back under the regulations of the Third Energy Package, the diplomat said.
Under the norms of Europe’s Third Energy Package, a part of the OPAL gas pipeline capacities must be reserved for independent suppliers. In practice, however, this reservation only limits Russian natural gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which is currently the most reliable transit route to Europe amid the existing risks of gas supplies across Ukraine.