Decision on Gazprom Access to OPAL Pipeline Delayed Again

Decision on Gazprom Access to OPAL Pipeline Delayed Again
Decision on Gazprom Access to OPAL Pipeline Delayed Again

The European Commission may once again delay a decision on providing full access for Russian energy giant Gazprom to the OPAL gas pipeline, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said.

“I believe this is not the last delay,” ITAR-TASS quoted Novak as saying. “It seems to be (EU’s) principal decision not to consider this issue yet, although all the necessary agreements with the German regulator were reached in late 2013.”

The issue was supposed to be considered on September 15, but the deadline was eventually moved to October 31. The European Commission has been postponing the decision on the issue since March 10 with an average frequency of one time in each two months.

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.

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. 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 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 European diplomatic source said last month that the European Commission’s announced delay in September in the decision on the OPAL gas pipeline could be explained by unresolved gas talks between Russia and Ukraine with the EU’s mediation.

“In this way, the European Commission is trying to secure acceptable positions 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 gas talks between Russia, Ukraine and the EU 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.