Third Party Access without any third party interest - OPAL Case
Oggi pubblichiamo un articolo di Sorin Frosin sulla recente decisione della Commissione Europea di adottare “condizioni stringenti” per l’accesso a OPAL, gasdotto che collega il Nord Stream con l’Europa.
Interessanti alcuni passaggi del pezzo. Sorin dice innanzitutto che “is more than welcomed since it allows to optimize the operation of an existing infrastructure and to increase the liquidity and competitiveness of the gas market”.
La decisione della Commissione Europea è infatti corretta perché consente di aumentare la liquidità sul gasdotto mettendo da parte le limitazioni di capacità per gli operatori dominanti.
L’altro passaggio “practically a win-win-lose situation, where the only looser is Ukraine that sees its gas transit decreasing even more” è ancora più delicato.
Da questo punto di vista la politica energetica anche in tema di gasdotti spesso può essere vista come un trade off tra efficienza operativa e la strategia politica dell’Europa. Quest’ultima però presenta più problemi. Può infatti mutare nel tempo e sconta anche fattori esterni all’Europa (nel caso specifico ingerenza anche statunitense sull’approccio da tenere verso la Russia).
Today we publish a contribution of Mr. Sorin Frosin about the recent decision of European Commission to adopt stricter conditions for OPAL, the pipeline that connects Nord Stream and Europe.
There are several very interesting steps in this article. Sorin says that “is more than welcomed since it allows to optimize the operation of an existing infrastructure and to increase the liquidity and competitiveness of the gas market”.
In fact, the decision of European Commission is welcomed because will rise the liquidity of pipeline not considering the limitation of booking capacity for the dominant companies.
Another interesting step is “practically a win-win-lose situation, where the only looser is Ukraine that sees its gas transit decreasing even more”. This is more sensitive.
From this point of view the energy policy can be seen as a trade off between operating efficiency and political strategy of Europe. But the strategy shows more issues. It can change during the time and can be conditionated also from outside factors of Europe (in this case the influence of U.S.A about the relations with Russia).
Third Party Access without any third party interest
On 28th October the European Commission revised the exemption on OPAL pipeline, adopting “stricter conditions” for its operation. The scope of this contribution is to analyze how the main targets of EU, in terms of Energy Union strategy, and of Gazprom are not mutually exclusive but could be complementary and partially achieved thanks to this decision.
First of all let’s understand better what OPAL stands for. The Ostsee-Pipeline-AnbindungsLeitung (Baltic Sea Pipeline Link) is a 36 Bcm/y pipeline inaugurated in 2011 by the Joint Venture between Gazprom and BASF and runs from its connection with Nord Stream and ends to the German-Czech border. To feed the Czech market ? No. In fact, it directly connects with Gazelle pipeline, exempted as well (how else ?), that redirects most of the gas flow back to Southern Germany. Only in the past couple of years, in the intent to decrease the transit through Ukraine, part of the OPAL gas has been exported from Czech Republic to Slovakia canceling the transit in the opposite direction.
In 2009, the OPAL pipeline obtained fully exemption from third party access, but the capacity booking was limited to 50% for the companies with dominant position on the Czech gas market. And guess what, Gazprom has more than 50% of the Czech market (4.2 bcm out of 7.5 bcm about total gas consumption for 2015, Eurogas & Gazprom data).
After approx. 6 years of OPAL pipeline being used only at half of its potential, the European Commission decided to change its position regarding the exemption conditions. Let’s see how the access to the pipeline will be regulated after the last month decision:
the exemption is limited to 50% of its capacity and up to now nothing change;
the remaining 50% capacity will be non-discriminatory released on a competitive bidding process to all parties interested, including dominant companies;
a share of capacity, up to 20 % only in case of demand, would need to be made available as firm capacity.
The impact of this decision on Russian gas exports to Europe can be very clear intended from the statement of Mr. Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Gazprom, during an interview for the company’s Magazine: “no lots were sold for delivery via OPAL, which means that Gazprom remains the only company requesting these capacities”. How could it be differently? OPAL is directly connected with Nord Stream which is directly connected with the Russian gas transmission system. Who else could bid for OPAL capacity and what other gas could flow through if not the one coming from Nord Stream?
To summarize, with the “stricter conditions”, the Commission limited the exemption on OPAL to 50% of its capacity but practically, having no potential competitors, Gazprom could easily book full capacity of the pipeline. And moreover, should be expected the same treatment for EUGAL project, OPAL twin brother, that will be directly connected with Nord Stream 2, twin sister of the first line?
In any case, the Commission decision, even if belated, is more than welcomed since it allows to optimize the operation of an existing infrastructure and to increase the liquidity and competitiveness of the gas market and eventually the cross-border trade. Practically a win-win-lose situation, where the only looser is Ukraine that sees its gas transit decreasing even more.
To conclude, not always the roads paved with good intentions run in the right direction. Limiting access to infrastructures, even if for good reasons like “ensuring secure and affordable supplies to all EU citizens”, could lead in certain cases to undermine the full and efficient operation of the asset and consequently its return of investment. This is one of the reason most of the investors in new gas infrastructures projects asked, and many them obtained, a full or partial exemption: TAP, BBL, Gazelle, Poseidon and other (full list here).
Last but not least, the underutilization of the infrastructure may result in higher transport tariffs with negative impact on the consumers. And in this particular case, the full operation of OPAL maybe could have avoided the numerous interruption of gas supplies during the last years caused by Russia-Ukraine disputes that had increased more than once the gas price in all European final markets.
In general is recommended to pay more attention in applying the Third Party Access and to grant the exemptions on the basis of transparent and concrete criteria and not politically driven or based on the total discretion of the Commission.