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European Commission delays ruling on new Gazprom bid for German gas link Opal use

Brussels β€” * Nord Stream 2 could bring more gas to Opal
* Gazprom wants 50% of capacity offered on Prisma
* Previous bid expired after repeated EC delays

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The European Commission has delayed deciding on Gazprom's new bid to gain more access to its 36 Bcm/year Opal gas pipeline in Germany without resorting to a 3 Bcm/year gas release program, an EC spokeswoman told S&P Global Platts Thursday.

"The commission has sent a request for additional information to [federal German energy regulator] BNetzA, requesting updates on current market data that will allow the commission to assess any developments in the relevant markets," the EC spokeswoman said.

Article Continues below...

The Opal pipeline brings Russian gas onshore from the 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 1 pipeline and carries it across Germany to the Czech border.

Russia is planning a similar 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 pipeline, to come on stream in 2019.

The EC has already had two months to review the new draft exemption decision agreed by BNetzA with Opal operator Opal Gastransport, which is jointly owned by Gazprom and German oil and gas producer Wintershall.

BNetzA's new draft exemption is nearly identical to one it submitted to the EC in 2013.

Both drafts proposed that the 50% of Opal capacity not reserved for Opal Gastransport's own use under an approved 2009 exemption be offered on the Prisma gas capacity platform.

Any company, including Gazprom and its associated companies, would be allowed to bid for this capacity.

This means Gazprom could end up with all the capacity in the short to medium term, if it outbids all others.

The EC delayed deciding on the 2013 draft exemption several times, repeatedly citing "certain technical aspects" requiring further attention.

The 2013 draft exemption expired after a year with no EC decision and Gazprom chose not to prolong it.

The EC has to respond within two months of receiving the requested extra information for the new draft exemption.

Under the current 2009 exemption, if Opal Gastransport wants to book more than half the Czech border capacity, it has to carry out a gas release program of 3 Bcm/year.

Gazprom sold 4.2 Bcm to the Czech market in 2015, more than half the total 2015 Czech demand of 7.5 Bcm as estimated by Eurogas.

--Siobhan Hall, siobhan.hall@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@spglobal.com