The connection has been completed between a major gas pipeline running through Germany to the Czech border and the pipeline under the Baltic bringing Russian gas from Siberia, the companies behind the two ventures announced on Thursday.
The link between the Nord Stream under sea pipeline and the OPAL pipeline running 470 kilometres from the Baltic coast down the eastern German border to Olbernau on the German-Czech border forms part of strategic moves to diversify Russian gas export routes and avoid transit problems in the Ukraine and Belarus.
Russia cut off gas shipments to Europe via Ukraine at the start of 2009 following a row over payments for past supplies with Kiev, forcing European countries to take emergency steps and cut consumption. Similar disputes have erupted with Belarus.
A Czech pipeline, GAZELLE, is being constructed by the local gas unit of Germany’s RWE, Net4Gas, to link up with the OPAL pipeline with the prime aim of talking the gas further south. The GAZELLE link should be completed by the end of the year, the same deadline for Nord Stream being scheduled to become operational.
While the €400 million Czech pipeline should ship Russian gas southwards, it has been built so that the direction can be reversed if need be and used in connection with the ageing existing East-West pipeline that has previously brought most Russian gas through the Czech Republic.