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European Commission postpones decision on OPAL pipeline until October 31

September 15, 2014, 21:30 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The delay was provoked by the upcoming trilateral gas talks between Russia, the European Union and Ukraine, the date of which has not been determined yet
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© ITAR-TASS/Alexei Pavlishak

MOSCOW, September 15. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Commission has postponed the decision on the OPAL pipeline, which links Russia and Europe via Nord Stream bypassing transit countries, until October 31, the Russian Energy Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry confirmed it had received the Commission’s postponement note.

The delay was provoked by the upcoming trilateral gas talks between Russia, the European Union and Ukraine, the date of which has not been determined yet.

By delaying the decision, the European Commission is trying to give Kiev better positions in the negotiations with Gazprom, taking into account the latter’s interest in preserving a viable transit route via Ukraine, a source told ITAR-TASS.

The European Commission was expected to decide by September 15 whether Gazprom could fill up the whole of the OPAL pipeline, which is the final distribution link of the Nord Stream pipeline.

Under the Third Energy Package, some of OPAL’s capacities should be reserved for gas from independent suppliers. In practice, this will limit Gazprom’s gas supplies to Europe by Nord Stream, which appears to be the most reliable route amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on August 29 after talks with EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger that the working group on access to OPAL would meet shortly.

The OPAL (Ostsee Pipeline Anbindungs-Leitung) is a natural gas pipeline in Germany alongside the German eastern border. The OPAL pipeline is one of two projected pipelines to connect the Nord Stream pipeline to the existing pipeline grid in Middle and Western Europe, the other one being the NEL pipeline.

The OPAL will pick up the natural gas in Lubmin near Greifswald from the Nord Stream pipeline and transport it 470 kilometres south to Olbernhau on the Czech border. The OPAL will not only provide connecting points for discharging the gas into the existing pipeline network, it will also link up the current natural gas transit lines. That will strengthen Germany's position as a focal point in Europe for the growing natural gas market.

Nord Stream will transport 27.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas from late 2011, and up to 55 billion cubic metres from 2012. This amount of gas corresponds to the energy produced by 55 coal power plants pr 20 new nuclear reactors.

The Shtokman gas and condensate field will be a resource base for gas deliveries via Nord Stream.

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