Poland wins OPAL pipeline case

The Court of Justice of the European Union has annulled European Commission Decision No. C(2016) 6950 of Oct. 28, 2016, which had granted Gazprom a monopoly over access to Germany’s Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung (OPAL) natural gas pipeline.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has annulled European Commission Decision No. C(2016) 6950 of Oct. 28, 2016, which had granted Gazprom a monopoly over access to Germany’s Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung (OPAL) natural gas pipeline.

The court found that “the contested decision was adopted in breach of the principle of energy solidarity” confirming the arguments of Poland that the EC, by issuing the decision, violated the principles of the EU by not examining its impact on Poland’s energy security. The governments of Lithuania and Latvia joined Poland in applying to have the decision overturned.

OPAL (472 km, 56-in. OD) links the Nord Stream gas pipeline to Eastern Europe via an interconnection at the Czech Republic’s border near Brandov, delivering as much as 36 billion cu m/year.

The EC decision had approved monopoly use of OPAL to Gazprom, as granted by Germany’s energy regulatory authority. Polish-state Polish Oil & Gas Co. (PGNiG) SA, PGNiG Supply & Trading GMBH, and Ukraine’s Naftogaz joined the three governments in filing a complaint against the decision in December 2016.

“EU energy legislation is designed to prevent the monopolization of access to gas pipelines within the community. We are glad that the Court of Justice of the European Union has clearly affirmed that EU legislation applies equally to all, including Gazprom, said Piotr Wozniak, president of PGNiG’s management board.

The judgment of Sept. 10 does not end the proceedings before the court because the judgment may be appealed by the EC. As the judgment is immediately enforceable, however, the EC’s decision on OPAL became ineffective as of Sept. 10.

“The court’s judgment has another significant aspect,” added Maciej Wozniak, vice-president of PGNiG’s management board. “Following the judgment annulling the decision which gave it a monopoly on the access to the OPAL gas pipeline, Gazprom must reduce its utilization of Nord Stream 1 to the level permitted in 2015. [The] consequence of this will be transmission of the remaining volume of gas via Ukraine. As Gazprom can no longer enjoy its monopolistic position on the OPAL pipeline, it will not be able to terminate transit of gas to Europe via Ukraine, at least in the coming months. The court’s judgment may save Ukraine and Europe from the market turbulence like that of January and February 2009.”

OPAL gas pipeline is owned by joint-venture company WIGA Transport Beteiligungs-GMBH & Co. KG. WIGA’s shareholders are Wintershall Holding GMBH 50.02%, a daughter company of BASF, and PAO Gazprom 49.98%. WIGA also owns the German transmission network Gascade and the Nel gas pipeline, Nord Stream’s extension to the west.

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