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EU to decide on Gazprom's use of OPAL pipeline by January 2015

November 05, 2014, 14:53 UTC+3 BRUSSELS
The EU has delayed the decision to allow Gazprom to fill 100% of the capacity of OPAL gas pipeline stretching along Germany’s eastern border
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BRUSSELS, November 5. /TASS/. The European Commission has delayed allowing Russian gas giant Gazprom to use 100% of OPAL pipeline capacities until the end of January, a representative for the commission told PRIME Wednesday.

“The European Commission has agreed with Germany’s Federal Network Agency to extend the deadline for an OPAL decision. The decision was delayed due to some technical aspects which require further consideration. It is hard to mention the date of the decision. The deadline for a decision is the end of January 2015,” the representative said.

In September, the EU postponed the decision to the end of October.

On October 31, a European source told PRIME that the decision on the pipeline capacities will be made by a new line-up of the commission which started its work on November 1.

OPAL gas pipeline and the Third Energy Package

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 Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipe running under the Baltic Sea to Europe’s existing gas transport networks. The OPAL pipeline pumps Russian natural gas across Germany and farther to the Czech Republic.

Infographics Russian gas in Europe Russian gas in Europe
One-third of gas consumed in EU comes from Russia. Infographics ITAR-TASS
Under the rules of the Third Energy Package, Gazprom is required to reserve up to 50% of the OPAL gas pipeline’s capacities for gas transportation by independent gas suppliers.

Gazprom turned to the European Commission in late 2013 with a request to exclude the OPAL gas pipeline from the rules of the Third Energy Package, which requires the separation of gas production, transportation and sale to prevent gas suppliers from dominating the infrastructure.

The German Economy Ministry has insisted on providing full access for Gazprom to the OPAL pipeline over the threat of interruptions in Russia’s natural gas transit via Ukraine.

However, the EU has postponed until late October a decision on providing full access for Gazprom to the OPAL gas pipeline.

The German Federal Network Agency spokesman said that given the European Commission’s consent and in compliance with the agreement on the OPAL gas pipeline, Gazprom will get exclusive access to 50% of the pipeline’s capacities in the future while the remaining 50% will be distributed at market auctions through the company Prisma Primary set up to operate the primary capacity platform for the reservation of Europe’s gas transportation capacities.

“Therefore, the current rule [the admission of independent suppliers to the gas pipeline] is substantiated by the existing competition on the Czech market,” the German Federal Network Agency spokeswoman said.

“If the European Commission approves the agreement, then 50% [of the capacities] will be offered to free market participation through auctions,” the spokeswoman said.

“A positive decision by the European Commission could strengthen the European internal market because in this case 50% of the gas pipeline’s capacities sold at auctions could be used by all bidders,” Rendla said.

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