GAZPROM'S EXTRA CAPACITY
PLATTS - Russia's Gazprom will soon be able to bid for up to 12.8 Bcm/year of extra capacity in Germany's 36.5 Bcm/year Opal natural gas pipeline after an EU court lifted a temporary ban late Friday.
The ban had been in place since December 23, when Polish gas company PGNiG convinced the EU General Court in Luxembourg to suspend temporarily a European Commission decision from October granting Gazprom the extra access.
Opal operator OGT said Friday before the decision that it would start offering extra capacities on the Prisma booking platform again in daily, monthly and/or quarterly auctions, if and when the ban was lifted.
Gazprom can bid alongside other companies for this extra capacity, under conditions set out in the EC's October decision.
Gazprom already has sole access to 12.8 Bcm/year of Opal capacity under an agreement with German energy regulator BNetzA and the EC.
But before the EC's October decision Gazprom could only access extra capacity in Opal by carrying out a 3 Bcm/year gas release program, which it chose not to do.
Both PGNiG and the Polish government had asked the court to keep the ban in place until it rules on their separate applications for the EC's decision to be annulled completely.
The plaintiffs argue that the EC's decision would allow Gazprom to send more gas through its 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 1 pipeline across the Baltic Sea to Germany.
Nord Stream 1 links to Opal, which carries gas across Germany to the Czech border.
The plaintiffs argue that the access to extra Opal capacity would reduce Russian natural gas transit through the Yamal-Europe pipeline via Poland and the Brotherhood pipeline via Ukraine, threatening Poland's supply security and undermining competition.
But the president of the General Court said in a statement Friday that Gazprom has a transit contract to use Yamal-Europe until 2020 and a contract to supply PGNiG until the end of 2022.
He said this meant that Gazprom's transit and supply were guaranteed for Poland until those dates.
The court is likely to rule before then, probably in 2019, on the main applications to have the EC decision annulled, he said.
That meant there was no "sound evidence" that the Poles would suffer "serious and irreparable harm" while waiting for the main ruling, he said.
"Since the harm alleged is not immediate, the president of the General Court finds that the requirement of urgency is not met," he said.
The decision to lift the temporary ban does not prejudge the outcome of the main annulment cases.
The decision can be appealed to the president of the EU Court of Justice on points of law only within two months.
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