Natural gas flows through Nord Stream link NEL fall to zero
Gas flows through the second Nord Stream link Norddeutsche Erdgasleitung (NEL) have completely stopped, NEL data shows, after initial gas transports through the pipeline at the start of November.
This is contrary to predictions made by a spokeswoman for grid operator GASCADE, whose parent company WINGAS holds a share in the NEL project. Earlier this month, she said that flows through the pipeline - which is designed to transport Russian gas farther west to customers in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK - would "pick up successively in the coming weeks" (see ESGM 6 November 2012). However, data provided by Germany's transport capacity platform TRAC-X shows that no NEL capacity has been offered to the market so far.
Initial flows started on 6 November at 8:00 hours German time but stopped again on 7 November at 18:00 hours, according to NEL data. During this period, about 35GWh/day - about 3 million cubic metres (Mm³) - was transported. According to the spokeswoman, part of this volume was flowed through the NEL because of maintenance work in other parts of the grid but NEL flow data combined with the TRAC-X data suggest that the entire volume going through between 6-7 November was due to the maintenance work and did not represent regular flows.
Apart from majority-shareholder WINGAS, other NEL project partners are German E.ON (10%), Belgian Fluxys (19%) and Dutch Gasunie (20%). The three transport system operators (TSOs) running the pipeline are WINGAS-sister company NEL Transport, Gasunie Ostseeanbindungsleitung (GOAL) and Fluxys Deutschland. All of the involved companies declined to comment on the matter - except for GOAL, which said that "IT-issues" have been delaying the sale of NEL capacity. Generally, the transport capacity on the pipeline will have to be sold through auctions via TRAC-X but none of the three TSOs have put NEL capacity up for sale so far, according to the platform.
Meanwhile, NEL's capacity remains significantly reduced, amounting to only 4 billion cubic metres (Gm³)/year, which represents about 20% of the envisaged total capacity. NEL was originally scheduled to be fully operational in October this year, but in July 2011, a German court ordered a temporary halt to the construction of the pipeline because of security concerns (see ESGM 8 December 2011). The consortium expects NEL to reach its full capacity in the second half of 2013.
The fact that NEL has not taken on its envisaged function to distribute Nord Stream gas arriving in Germany from Russia means that the only option of further transport remains the 36Gm³/year Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung (OPAL) pipeline which runs to Olbernhau on the Czech border.
With both strings now operational, Nord Stream's two lines have the technical capacity to transport 55Gm³/year of Russian gas via the Baltic Sea into Germany, avoiding transit countries such as Ukraine. This capacity represents about 78% of total German gas consumption in 2011. However, since Nord Stream was inaugurated in Q4 '11, only about 25% of the available capacity has been used. JR
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