UpdateCompleted OPAL pipeline a natural gas supply 'game-changer'

14 July 2011 17:48  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Russia's National Energy Security Fund (NESF) described the completion of the OPAL pipeline in Germany as a game-changer which will vastly reduce Ukraine's ability to block Russian natural gas supplies to western and central Europe, it said on Thursday.

OPAL is the largest natural gas pipeline in Western Europe and known as the “little brother” to the still-under-construction Russia to Germany Nord Stream link, which it will connect to. It is expected to be commissioned in the autumn, along with the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline section, following a test phase, natural gas firm WINGAS said.

“Nord Stream, via OPAL, will allow us to replace Ukraine as a gas transit country as [eventually] it will even enable us to merge into Polish gas networks,” said Konstantin Simonov, director general of the Moscow-based NESF, an analytical organisation that looks at the influence of political factors on the energy industry.

“It will be possible to exclude Ukraine in supplying gas to very many consumers in western Europe, central Europe and Poland,” he added.

Gas debt and pricing disputes between Russia and Ukraine in recent years have led to cutoffs for hundreds of thousands of European consumers, and gas supply disruption to chemical and fertilizer producers in countries including Poland and Romania.

"Thanks to the support of all those involved we have managed to complete OPAL according to [the 22-month] schedule. Now we are ready to transport the natural gas from the reserves in Siberia to the consumers in Germany and in neighboring European countries," said WINGAS chairman Gerhard Konig.

OPAL, 470 kilometres (292 miles) in length, and boasting an annual capacity of 36bn cubic metres of gas, stands for Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung, or Baltic Sea Pipeline Link. The pipeline runs from Greifswald on the northeastern Baltic coast of Germany, via Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony to the German-Czech border.

WINGAS and German utility firm E.ON Ruhrgas have invested over €1bn in the energy infrastructure project, WINGAS said.

RWE Transgas subsidary Net4Gas is constructing the €400m ($563m) Gazela Pipeline, which will connect to the OPAL pipeline in Hora Svate Kateriny in the northern Czech Republic. From there, Russian Nord Stream gas can be distributed across much of the central European gas transit system.

Various proposals, including one from the Polish Chamber of the Chemical Industry (PIPC), have been put forward in Poland, aiming to connect Polish industrial and retail consumers to Nord Stream gas via OPAL.

($1 = €0.71)

By: Will Conroy
+44 20 8652 3214

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