PRIMDA, Czech Republic, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- German energy company RWE said opening the Gazelle natural gas pipeline, which connects to Russia's Nord Stream, provides a vital energy source for Europe.
RWE announced that it commissioned the Gazelle pipeline during a ceremony in the Czech Republic.
"Bringing this pipeline into service opens up the 'new northern route' for the transportation of natural gas to Western Europe," the company said in a statement. "Construction of the Gazelle pipeline is of major strategic importance for both the Czech Republic and for Europe as a whole."
The 103-mile pipeline connects to the Opal pipeline system in Germany and the Nord Stream dual pipeline system running through the Baltic Sea to Germany. The second string of Nord Stream, part of Russian energy company Gazprom's plans to diversify its export options, went into service in October.
Gazelle also connects to the Megal gas network for German and French consumers as well as the Czech Republic's existing gas network.
European consumers get around 20 percent of their natural gas from Russia, though the majority of that runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine. Both sides have sought to add diversity to their energy sector because of contractual woes between Kiev and Gazprom.
Construction on the Gazelle pipeline began in October 2010.