The European Court of Justice ruled that Gazprom cannot use the whole capacity of the Opal gas pipeline, the extension of Nord Stream that carries gas through Germany to the Czech Republic. Under EU’s third energy package Gazprom should be allowed to use only 50% of the pipeline’s capacity, but in 2016 the EC decided that the pipeline will be exempted from this requirement and Gazprom can use up to 90% of the capacity. Now, the court ruled that the EC decision did not respect the principle of “energy solidarity” as it did not take into account the negative impact on deliveries to Poland and transit through Ukraine and Belarus. The suit was initiated by the Polish gas company PGNiG. The court decision comes as a surprise because the court already dismissed a similar case in 2018
Nord Stream (55 bcm capacity) has two extensions in Germany — OPAL (36.5bcm) and NEL (20 bcm), but the EU’s third energy package does not apply to NEL because it runs only in Germany. At the moment both pipelines are fully loaded and the court decision will reduce Gazprom’s gas deliveries to Germany by around 13-15 bcm, which can be compensated only with higher transit through Ukraine. Thus, the ruling strengthens Ukraine’s position in the upcoming gas talks with Russia. Another implication is that Gazprom will most probably face a similar problem with the Nord Stream 2 project even if it is completed, which will preserve the need for gas transit through Ukraine also in the medium term.