European Court suspends EC ruling to expand Gazprom access to Opal pipeline

December 28, 2016 Kira Egorova, RBTH
However, it is still a long way before the agreement between Germany's regulator and Gazprom can be annulled, says one Russian industry insider.
Alexey Miller
It is not the European Commission that makes decisions on how to distribute Opal capacities, but German regulator BNetzA (Germany's Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur). Source: AP

The European Court has suspended the European Commission's (EC) Oct. 28 decision to expand Gazprom's access to the Opal pipeline, which links its Nord Stream pipeline with the Czech Republic and Germany.

Bloomberg reports that general director of Polish gas company PGNiG Petr Voznyak made the announcement concerning the decision during a press conference on Dec. 27. The European Court's official decision has still not been published.

An EC representative cited (in Russian) by Russia's RBK daily says that the EC's decision to expand Gazprom's access to Opal was made in strict observance of the regulations, procedures and terms and completely complies with the EU's Third Energy Package, which prohibits energy suppliers from gaining possession of distribution networks.

Alexei Grivach, deputy director of the National Energy Security Foundation's gas department, explains that it is not the European Commission that makes decisions on how to distribute Opal capacities, but German regulator BNetzA (Germany's Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur).

"In order to learn the details we must wait for the official publication of the court's decision: If the European Court has suspended the EC's decision, in no way does it influence the decision of the German regulator," said Grivach, who doubts that the court's decision will lead to an actual reduction of gas being pumped through Opal.

The capacity of the Opal pipeline, which is part of Central and Western Europe’s gas transportation system, totals 36 billion cubic meters of gas annually.

The EC decision of Oct. 28, 2016 allows Gazprom to participate in auctions on pumping gas through this pipeline for 28 billion cubic meters, that is, acquire 78 percent of its capacity, while earlier the Russian company had access to only 50 percent of Opal capacity.

Poland's gas company PGNiG challenged the EC decision on Dec. 23, 2016.

Read more: Gazprom to get increased access to Europe’s Opal gas pipeline>>>

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