Gazprom Export declined to comment to NGW July 25 on the decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on July 21 and the company's new plans relating to additional Opal capacity, but one possibility is an imminent rise in capacity bookings.
It is possible that the Russian exporter will be able to book capacity soon, once the Higher Regional Court in Dusseldorf has followed the ECJ example, a source said, meaning that it is a formality that might only take a matter of days.
It took roughly a week for the Dusseldorf court to mirror the decision of the ECJ and to quash the settlement between the Bundesnetzagentur (German federal networks regulator) and Gazprom that had granted Gazprom more of the capacity, and that was during the Christmas-New Year lull, the source said, suggesting it might be quicker this time round.
Theoretically therefore, depending on how long it takes Gazprom to buy capacity on Prisma, it might be possible for Gazprom to buy monthly capacity for August, or at least September. That would still mean that Poland had blocked access to more than 50% of the line since the beginning of February, benefiting Ukraine which has seen very high transit volumes in the first months of the year.
Gascade, the operator of Opal, told NGW July 25 it was waiting to see how the ruling is applied by the higher regional court in Dusseldorf as, until then, Gazprom was stuck at the 50% level. Opal is regulated by the German networks agency, Bundesnetzagentur, which reached a settlement with Gazprom that the European Commission had to approve. That approval was the subject of the lawsuit in the ECJ, and suspended until last week. However the German court must now decide what to do next.
The outcome was expected by lawyers acting for the plaintiffs, which are Polish entities challenging the legality of the European Commission decision on grounds that it was not compatible with EU law and treaties. They said that the bar for interim measures, which have now ended, was set very high and that the plaintiffs had not been able to prove to the court that the infringement was apparent; and that they were likely to suffer serious and irreparable harm before the outcome of the main proceedings.
No date has been set for that but it is not expected before 2019, so perhaps a year or more before Gazprom's gas supply and transit contracts with PGNiG expire in 2022 and 2020 respectively, meaning Poland can expect gas transit payments and gas supplies regardless of how much gas Gazprom sends through Opal.
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