The decision by the top court in the EU to curb Russian energy firm Gazprom’s use of the Opal gas pipeline, which links Nord Stream to Germany, has saved Poland from a ‘tragic’ gas shortage, its state oil and gas company admits.
According to Petr Wozniak, head of Poland’s state oil and gas company PGNIG, Gazprom’s continued operation of the Opal pipeline at full capacity would lead to terrible consequences for his country.
“This would lead to tragic supply interruptions, which are unacceptable for our gas transmission system and consumers,” Wozniak said at a Polish economic forum on Thursday, as quoted by the Biznes Alert portal.
Wozniak stated that if the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had not decided to limit the transfer of Russian gas via the Opal pipeline, there “would not have [been] enough gas in southeastern Poland.” On the other hand, if the gas transfer via Opal was reduced, increased volumes of Russian gas would flow into Poland via Ukraine.
“These missing volumes of gas, which Gazprom should reduce transmitting via Opal, will be sent [to Poland] through Ukraine,” Wozniak said.
On September 10, the European Court annulled the 2016 European Commission decision to allow Gazprom use Opal to 100 percent of its capacity, which is 36 billion cubic meters per year. The decision was made on Poland’s demand, with Warsaw claiming Gazprom’s full use of Opal threatened gas supplies to central and eastern Europe.
Now the Russian state energy giant can use only 50 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity. Wozniak said at the time the ECJ’s decision would prevent Gazprom from completely halting transit via Ukraine, a prospect feared by Kiev as its gas-transit contract with Russia expires in January.
The Russian company did reduce Opal supplies starting September 14, while slightly increasing pumping through the Nel gas pipeline, which also receives gas from Nord Stream but has less capacity than Opal. At the same time, Gazprom also began to pump more gas through Ukraine.
Opal is a branch pipe connecting Nord Stream with the gas transmission system of Central and Western Europe. The gas enters Germany at the border with the Czech Republic.
Both Poland and Ukraine fear that Gazprom may decide to bypass legacy gas routes via these two neighboring states when it doubles the capacity of Nord Stream with the Nord Stream-2 pipeline, now in the final stages of construction. Nord Stream 2 will be owned and operated by Gazprom, though 50% of the funding is provided by Germany’s Uniper and BASF’s Wintershall unit, Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.
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