OPAL natural gas pipeline reaches Czech Republic

The Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung (OPAL) pipeline, which eventually will extend 470 km to link the Nord Stream Pipeline to Eastern Europe, has been laid across the German-Czech border, according to company officials.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 18 -- The Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung (OPAL) pipeline, which eventually will extend 470 km to link the Nord Stream Pipeline to Eastern Europe, has been laid across the German-Czech border, according to company officials.

“The closer cross-border integration of national natural gas pipeline systems called for by the European Union has taken a key step forward,” said Bernd Vogel, managing director of OPAL Nel Transport GMBH, a subsidiary of the Wingas Group, which is co-owned by Germany’s Wintershall and Russia's OAO Gazprom.

"By building the Nord Stream Pipeline and its connecting pipeline OPAL, European customers are gaining direct access to the major Russian natural gas reserves in Siberia,” said Vogel, whose firm will perform the tasks of network operator for OPAL.

About 400 km of the pipeline’s overall length have already been laid, and the welding together of the more than 26,000 pipes has also largely been completed.

"This makes us confident of completing the pipeline by the late summer 2011 as planned and bringing it online in October 2011 together with the first Nord Stream Pipeline," said Vogel.

Gazprom projects completion of the first 27.5 billion cu m/year Nord Stream line in 2011, with a parallel line of the same capacity to follow in 2012. The line will pass through Russian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and German waters.

Construction of the 1,200-km Nord Stream system, which will extend through the Baltic Sea from Vyborg, Russia, to Greifswald, Germany, began Apr. 9 (OGJ Online, Apr. 9, 2010).

Meanwhile, Wingas Chief Construction Manager Michael Muth outlined the work program for OPAL over the coming months, saying that it “will concentrate on the construction of the gas transfer station in Lubmin and the natural gas compressor station in Baruth, south of Berlin.”

When complete, OPAL will be the largest gas line to be laid in Europe, with an annual transport capacity of 36 billion cu and a diameter of 1.4 m.

In addition to OPAL, Wintershall and Gazprom also are planning construction of the 440-km North European gas pipeline (NEL), which will transport Nord Stream gas from Greifswald on the German coast west to Rehden in Lower Saxony. NEL is scheduled to come on stream in 2011 and has a planned capacity of 20 billion cu m/year.

“It will connect Nord Stream with the European gas network, just as the OPAL natural gas pipeline does to the Czech Republic,” Wingas said. That will facilitate gas transportation from Russia, through Germany, to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and the UK.

Earlier this week, the European Union described the Nord Stream line part of one of four “big axis” for the diversification of gas supplies in Europe: the Southern Corridor from the Caspian, the Northern Corridor from Norway, the Eastern corridor from Russia, and the Mediterranean Corridor from Africa.

Wingas is owned 50.02% by BASF subsidiary Wintershall and 49.98% by Gazprom. Wingas owns 80% of OPAL and 75% of NEL, with E.On Ruhrgas holding the remaining 20% and 25%, respectively.

Nord Stream's shareholders include Gazprom 51%, E.On Ruhrgas and Wintershall 15.5% each, and Dutch state Gasunie and France's GDF Suez, each with 9%.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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