Russia wants relief from EU roles on gas operations

Opal pipeline should run at peak capacity, Russian energy minister says.
By Daniel J. Graeber   |   May 20, 2014 at 10:21 AM
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MOSCOW, May 20 (UPI) -- Operating Germany's Opal gas pipeline at 100 percent would address regional transit issues for Europe and Gazprom alike, Russia's energy minister said Tuesday.

"It would be rational if the European Commission granted permission for full load of Opal, in the context of improving assurance guarantees [for the supply of gas] to European consumers," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in January said he was optimistic the pipeline would run at full capacity after he met in Brussels with members of the European Union. The pipeline connects to the Nord Stream system through the Baltic Sea and can carry 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.

European regulations regarding gas monopolies mean the pipeline operates at about half that capacity. Novak said it was be a "rational" decision for the European Commission to extend a waiver for the German pipeline system.

"Though practically we have already prepared a relevant decision, it is on our table and it could be made in the near future. This would significantly improve the situation for transit," he said.

Most of the Russian gas bound for Europe runs through the Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine and ongoing political problems between Kiev and Moscow make the traditional gas distribution option risky.

European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger met Monday with Novak in Brussels. The commissioner said he wanted to see the energy problem as it relates to Ukraine resolved by the end of the month.

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