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OPAL gas pipeline operator needs 'formal order' to restrict capacity


OPAL entry flows on Thursday steady on previous days

German regulator said Gazprom capacity must be halved

OPAL operator OGT says in 'close talks' with regulator

London — The operator of the OPAL gas pipeline in Germany said Thursday it would not reduce the capacity in the link available to Russia's Gazprom until it received a "formal order" requesting it to do so.

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The EU General Court in Luxembourg on Tuesday annulled the European Commission's 2016 decision that allowed Gazprom to book up to an extra 35 million cu m/d of OPAL capacity on the Prisma platform.

However, since the ruling, flows via OPAL have remained at around 95 million cu m/d -- the same as before the court's verdict, which came into immediate effect, was announced.

Operator OGT said a "formal order" was needed in the event of a request to restrict transportation capacity.

"OGT has currently not received such an order," a spokesman said.

"We are in close talks with the Bundesnetzagentur [BNetzA] as the responsible German agency for OPAL," he said, adding that the court's decision was "not yet final."

The EC has until mid-November to appeal against the court ruling.

BNetzA was not immediately available to comment on OGT's statement.

BNetzA said on Wednesday it had asked the companies to implement the ruling, and that Gazprom's gas shipments must be reduced to comply.

It said that it was also examining further measures to implement the ruling.

OGT is owned by WIGA Transport Beteiligungs-GmbH, a joint venture of Gazprom and Germany's Wintershall.

Wednesday flows steady

Flows leaving Nord Stream and entering the OPAL pipeline on Wednesday were 95 million cu m, in line with the average flows of around 96 million cu m/d since the start of August, according to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Flows on Thursday were also expected to be around the same level, according to nominations.

The court's ruling meant Gazprom was restricted to the 35 million cu m/d of exclusive OPAL capacity it is entitled to under a 2009 decision exempting it from EU internal energy market rules approved by the EC and BNetzA.

Gazprom can only access more capacity in OPAL if it carries out a 3 Bcm/year gas release program, under the 2009 decision.

OPAL carries gas from Russia's 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream pipeline across Germany and into the Czech Republic.

According to data on OGT's website, most of the extra 35 million cu m/d capacity in OPAL is booked to at least 2024.

The exemption decisions of both 2009 and 2016 only apply to 32 Bcm/year of the 36.5 Bcm/year OPAL link. The other 4.5 Bcm/year is fully regulated under the EU's normal internal market rules, and so is not affected by the court's ruling.

Both exemption decisions also allow Germany's Uniper exclusive access to 6.4 Bcm/year of the 32 Bcm/year total, as it owns 20% of OPAL.

-- Stuart Elliott,

-- Siobhan Hall,

-- Edited by James Burgess,