EU confirms to lift cap on Gazprom's use of Russia's Nord Stream pipeline link

A general view shows the headquarters of Gazprom in Moscow, Russia, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission confirmed on Friday it had lifted limits on Gazprom’s use of a key link from its offshore Nord Stream pipeline to Germany, allowing Russia to pump more gas supplies to Europe bypassing traditional routes via Ukraine.

The decision allows Gazprom to bid for an additional 7.7 and 10.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) more volumes at auction on top of its existing access to half of the Opal pipeline’s capacity, a Commission official said.

As Reuters exclusively reported, it requires at least 10 percent and as much as 20 percent of capacity be made available to other suppliers. If there is no demand, Gazprom would then also be allowed to bid for those volumes as well.

The Commission’s decision modifies a proposal by German regulators in May that would have given Gazprom almost full access to the pipeline, with only between 4 and 8 percent reserves for rivals.

“The European Commission has today adopted stricter exemption conditions for the operation of the Opal gas pipeline,” it said in a statement.

Under an EU ruling to prevent energy suppliers from dominating infrastructure, Gazprom has only been allowed to use 50 percent of Opal, which provides a land link from Russia’s undersea Nord Stream pipeline to Germany and the Czech Republic.

A condition for Gazprom to have full access to Opal, under the earlier exemption, was for it to implement a gas release program for 3 bcm.

Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel