Initial building permission for OPAL natural gas pipeline

Chemnitz county authorities give planning approval / Permissions for North Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are expected

Chemnitz/Kassel. The OPAL (Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung – Baltic Sea pipeline connection line) can be built. The Chemnitz county authorities have given the go-ahead for a pipeline section (just under 50 kilometers) in southern Saxony. The approval applies for the section from Reinsberg south of the A 4 highway to Olbernhau in the Erzgebirgskreis (Ore Mountains area). “This planning approval now takes us another step towards putting the OPAL pipeline in place,” says Bernd Vogel, Head of OPAL NEL TRANSPORT GmbH, with a confident smile for the project’s progress: “In the next few weeks we expect the next building permits to come in for the planning approval notices for the northern part of Saxony and for the entire Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania area. This transport firm is a WINGAS Group company, and it will be responsible for operating the OPAL network. The pipeline is planned to go into operation in fall 2011.

“First of all we will intensively check through the resolution and add the awarded approvals to our plans,” says Mr. Vogel in explaining the next project steps. “The preparations can then go ahead for the actual construction.” In their resolution the county authorities have decided that the OPAL implementation will improve energy supply security in accordance with § 1, Paragraph 1 of the Energiewirtschaftsgesetz (German Energy Management Law - EnWG) in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the entire European Union.

The European Commission has also corroborated the importance of OPAL for secure natural gas supplies in Europe and essentially confirmed the German Federal Network Agency’s decision to largely exclude OPAL from general regulation. Mr. Vogel: “The Federal Network Agency is exempting natural gas transports that go from the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline landing point in Greifswald to the Czech Republic from network access and fee regulations. This exemption will apply for 22 years, beginning from the date of the operation start-up.”

The planning approval procedures, which only began early this year in Brandenburg, will also go into the next phase. The hearings for the northern section in Brandenburg, which is a 148 kilometer section between the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (northern Germany) state border and the A12 highway between Berlin and Frankfurt/Oder (Polish border), will start this week. Approximately 270 kilometers of the OPAL pipeline run through Brandenburg (eastern Germany). The planning approval procedures will be implemented here by Brandenburg’s responsible State Office for Mining, Geology and Raw Materials. The procedure is expected to be completed some time after the end of the year.

The planning approval notice is the end of a two-stage official procedure. The upstream planning procedure will check that the project is harmonized with existing projects and with planning-related issues (such as transport/supply and disposal infrastructure, agricultural activities, forestry, nature conservation and flood prevention). The subsequent planning approval procedure, which ends with the planning approval – the actual building permit, is an intensive official authority procedure, in which all public sector-legal and private sector-legal issues are checked and compared with each other.

The OPAL pipeline is approximately 470 kilometers long and has a transport capacity of more than 36 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, and is therefore one of Germany’s biggest energy infrastructure activities in recent years. The pipeline will connect the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline that runs through the Baltic Sea with the European gas pipeline system, and will run from Lubmin near Greifswald through Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony, right through to the Czech Republic. The pipeline will be built by WINGAS as commissioned by OPAL NEL TRANSPORT GmbH and E.ON Ruhrgas AG.

OPAL NEL TRANSPORT GmbH will be the OPAL network operator. The company is part of the WINGAS Group, which also includes the gas supplier, WINGAS, and WINGAS TRANSPORT, which operates a gas pipeline over 2,000 kilometers long across the whole of Germany. It is planned to connect OPAL with the WINGAS TRANSPORT long distance pipeline network.

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