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    Germany Puts Opal Ruling into Force (Update)


Gastransport Opal and Gazprom are required to abide by the court ruling immediately.

by: Joseph Murphy

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Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Premium, Corporate, Infrastructure, Pipelines, Nord Stream Pipeline, OPAL, News By Country, EU, Germany, Russia

Germany Puts Opal Ruling into Force (Update)

(Adds comments from Nord Stream shareholders and Opal operator at end)

German networks regulator Bundesnetzagentur has ordered the operator of the Opal gas pipeline to comply immediately with an EU Court of Justice ruling restricting Gazprom’s access to its capacity.

“We have just ordered immediate implementation of the court’s Opal judgement,” a spokesperson for the regulator told NGW.

The European Commission decided in October 2016 to remove a 50% cap on Gazprom’s use of the 36.5bn m2/yr Opal pipeline’s capacity, allowing the Russian supplier to bid for the remaining capacity at auction. But the EU Court of Justice overruled the decision on September 10, concluding that it contravened bloc energy rules.

According to a Bundesnetzagentur statement issued on September 13, the Gastransport Opal operating company has been prohibited from holding any further auctions for 15.9mn kWh/h (13bn m³/yr) of its capacity with immediate effect. This includes an auction that had been scheduled for September 16 for gas loads in October. Gazprom has also been ordered to stop using the affected capacity.

“Should the companies continue to violate the rules applicable under the judgement, or in the future, the Federal Network Agency can and will impose periodic penalty payments," Bundesnetzagentur said.

The restriction at Opal means less flows through Russia's Nord Stream pipeline. However, Bundesnetzagentur said Gazprom had access to other routes to ensure its obligations to customers were met.

Gastransport Opal confirmed it would abide by the regulator's order, saying it had "initiated necessary measures to comply with the decree of Bundesnetzagentur and to respectively restrict the marketing and usage of partly regulated decoupled connection capacities as soon as possible."

The pipeline operator is jointly owned by Gazprom and Germany's Wintershall Dea.

Gazprom Export and Nord Stream's operating company told NGW September 13 they had no comment to make. Shell and OMV, two of Nord Stream's shareholders, declined to comment, although OMV CEO Rainer Seele told Austria's Die Presse that the court's ruling on Opal was unlikely to be final, as it would leave half of the pipeline's capacity empty.

"I assume that this is not the final decision. It can not be that Poland is able to achieve this," he told the newspaper on September 12, adding that the ruling would not affect OMV's plan to help finance Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline.