Czech and Slovak ministers look toward joint pipeline to allay fears over Russian gas

Czech and Slovak ministers of industry met in Prague in early June to discuss a key issue concerning them both: energy security and the possible risks that some gas deliveries could be undermined by Russia.

Czech minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek and his new Slovak counterpart Peter Žiga reportedly discussed a proposal from Slovak gas pipeline operator Eustream for the creation of a virtual gas pipeline link between the Czech Republic and Austria.

The pipeline would use existing Slovak pipelines to link the Czech Republic and Austria. This rather than proceeding with a proposed new physical pipeline, the so-called BACI pipeline or Bidirectional Austria-Czech Interconnection.

A physical BACI pipeline is reportedly being mulled by Czech gas pipeline company NET4GAS and its Austrian equivalent, Gas Connect Austria.

It would be a pipeline of just around 12 kilometers in the Czech Republic in south Moravia with another around 49 kilometres in Austria ending in the giant gas hub at Baumgarten, Austria.

There is reportedly sufficient interest in shipping gas through it from the Czech Republic to Austria but minimum interest in paying for flows in the opposite direction.

Nevertheless, the project, which might be completed as early as 2019 and operational by 2020, is still on the books at NET4GAS, it is on is list of investment projects through to 2023, and it is creating a lot of unease in Slovakia.

Bratislava worried about being sidelined

Bratislava is worried about being transformed from a key gas transit country to a backwater. The main threat is the possible ending of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Russia’s redirecting of shipments through the existing Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic and the proposed new Nord Stream 2 link that Russia and Germany are backing.

A real BACI pipeline would be another blow as well to Slovakia.

Prague was seen to be slow in its opposition to the Nord Stream 2 project as Slovakia sought to undermine it in Brussels as a move undermining European gas security. The backing for a virtual BACI could mend some of the damaged fences.

Russia is ready to remove risk of loss of revenues for Slovakia in the process of gas transit, Economic Development Minister of Alexei Ulyukayev said after the meetings with Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia on investment Peter Pellegrini and Economy Minister Peter Ziga.

“The Economy Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister raised the issue of the Nord Stream-2. In contrast to the position of some other countries of the European Union, Slovakia’s stance is artificial but well-grounded: Slovakia is a transit country, it has revenues of 700-800 million euros from transit, so it sees the risks.”

“We are ready to ensure that these risks are removed for Slovakia, no one is going to abandon the Ukrainian transit, all existing transit agreements will be fulfilled, the contract until 2028 is valid and there is no doubt. The main European consumers and transit countries need to understand that this is not the political risks, and risks associated with the quality of Ukrainian gas transportation system, with its deep underinvestment, when risks of supply disruptions and technical disasters emerge,” he said.

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