The European court has forbidden Gazprom to use the Opal pipeline at full capacity

The European court of justice on 10 September upheld the claim of Poland and quashed the decision of the European Commission, which enabled Gazprom to full capacity use of the pipeline Opal

Cédric / Flickr

This pipeline is one of two (second — Nel) of the land continuation of the pipeline «Nord stream» (SP) in Germany, launched into operation in 2011

OPAL Gastransport GmbH & Co

The European court of justice on 10 September upheld the claim of Poland and quashed the decision of the European Commission, which enabled Gazprom to full capacity use of the pipeline Opal.

This pipeline is one of two (second — Nel) of the land continuation of the pipeline «Nord stream» (SP) in Germany, launched into operation in 2011. Opal runs from the German city of Greifswald to Olbernhau and connects SP with the Jagal and Stegal pipelines. On the German-Czech border it continues the Gazelle gas pipeline, which passes through the territory of the Czech Republic and returned to Germany, where it joins with the Megal pipeline. Thus Opal connects Nord stream with the entire gas transmission system in Central and Western Europe, reports TASS. A year through the pipeline can pump 36.5 billion cubic meters of gas.

The initial conditions of the Third energy package, the EU has allowed Russia to use only 50% of the Opal gas pipeline. These rules are designed to prevent gas suppliers to dominate the market. But «Gazprom» has asked for access to all 100% of the capacity of Opal, as the company remains the only supplier of gas to the Nord stream, which it completely fills. As a result, in 2016, the European Commission still allowed the Russian company to participate in auctions for another 40% of the transit capacity of the Opal.

It’s not like the transit countries of Russian gas: Ukraine and Poland. They feared that «Gazprom» will transfer part of the transit volumes from these routes to the «Nord stream». At the end of 2016 Poland appealed against the decision of the European Commission and has demanded to return the limit to 50%.

But in the summer of 2017, the Higher regional court of düsseldorf has lifted an interim measure on the use by Gazprom of the Opal capacities, which earlier authorities have imposed on this claim. Ukraine for the duration of the restrictions of gas supplies in Opal earned about $ 300 million due to the increase of transit through its territory.

In the spring of 2018, the European court of justice has rejected a similar claim Polish Ukrainian «Naftogaz». And now he has dismissed the appeal of Poland.

The Reaction Of Warsaw

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the court’s decision is very important and useful. He reminded that Poland is building a gas pipeline from Norway via Denmark, Baltic Pipe, which is going to finish by 2022. Just then expiring contract on Russian gas supplies, and to renew the Polish side is not going to.

Also a country increases production, expands the LNG terminal in świnoujście, new builds in the Gulf of Gdansk and creates the interconnectors with Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Ukraine.

«It gives us an unprecedented [energy] security compared to the situation that was a few years ago. But we want to be distributor of gas and benefit from this — said Morawiecki. — So for us, posed a threat to the monopoly power of Gazprom, which would be enhanced, if not today’s EU court judgment».

Also, in Poland’s opinion, the decision of the European court of justice will force «Gazprom» to reduce the use of the «Nord stream», and therefore, will not allow the company to refuse transit through Ukraine and will affect the approach to tripartite negotiations on deliveries after the end of the current contract. The next is scheduled for 19 September. The European Commission offers Russia and Ukraine to sign a new long-term transit contract for a period of ten years with a guaranteed annual volume of flow of gas through the Ukrainian system. Russia proposes simply to extend the current contract.

«The victory of Poland in this case reduces the likelihood of serious gas crisis in Ukraine, which has also hit other countries in the region, including Poland,» — said the head of the Polish energy Krzysztof Tchorzewski.

Moscow’s Reaction

The decision of the court of EU on access «Gazprom» to the Opal looks biased and politically motivated, said the Chairman of the state Duma Committee on energy Paul landslide.

«This is a manifestation of the policy of double standards, and that it involve designed to be independent of the European courts, sad,» — said in comments the Logjam, dispatched a press-service.

The MP called the incident «discrimination on political grounds», which violated WTO rules, reports RIA «Novosti».

In «Gazprom» stated that study of the legal and economic consequences of the decision. Thus in 2017, the company is asked to bring her to trial as an interested party, but this did not happen.

The pipeline operator company Opal Gastransport GmbH & Co. KG took the decision under advisement. But she in court was not involved as a defendant in the suit of Poland was made by the European Commission.
The EC also took note of the court’s decision and stressed that «appreciates the principle of energy solidarity.» The Federal network Agency of Germany in turn, called for Gazprom to keep the order of the court.

The current decision on the Opal means that the plans of «Gazprom» on the use of the construction of the pipeline «Nord stream — 2» is also under threat. In 2019, the EU entered into force amendments to the Gas Directive. They spread the action of the Third energy package and marine pipelines coming into the EU from third countries. That is, for Russia, this means that the operator «Nord stream — 2» should become independent from «Gazprom» company (the current operator of the building 2 Nord Stream AG, owned by Russian holding company, this is not suitable), and 50% of capacity should be reserved for other companies.

The amendment has a loophole — the decision to exclude the project from these standards takes not Brussels, as the country on whose territory the pipeline goes. That is, in the case of «Nord stream — 2» is Germany. And experts expected that Moscow and Berlin will agree, and the experience of Opal cited as a successful example. However, Germany in any case will need to negotiate the removal of SP-2 under the new rules with the European Commission.

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