Go-ahead for the NEL

Stralsund/Kassel. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania has paved the way for the North European Gas Pipeline: The federal state’s authorities today approved the pipeline section in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. “This approval means we can now start preparations right away. Once the building sites have been set up, we can then begin construction work on the route,” states Bernd Vogel, Managing Director of OPAL NEL TRANSPORT GmbH, a WINGAS Group company. The approval for the section in Lower Saxony is also expected in the next few days. The NEL project is headed by the natural gas companies WINGAS and E.ON Ruhrgas and the Dutch gas pipeline network operator Gasunie. The three companies have invested around 500 million Euros in this project in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania alone. Commissioning of the second link of the Nord Stream Baltic Sea Pipeline is scheduled for the fall of 2012. 

The 440 kilometer NEL will connect Nord Stream, as well as the Baltic Sea Pipeline Link (OPAL), with the existing European natural gas pipeline system. Whereas OPAL runs from where Nord Stream emerges from the sea at Greifswald and on southward to the Czech Republic, the NEL’s route extends from the coast of the Baltic, past Schwerin and Hamburg, to Rehden, Lower Saxony, just south of Bremen. “The NEL will not only secure the supply of gas to Europe by providing additional transport capacities,” explains Bernd Vogel. “In conjunction with OPAL and Nord Stream, it will also make the Europe natural gas system more flexible.” The pipeline will be able to transport about 20 billion cubic meters a year and is intended to transport Nord Stream gas that was produced from reservoirs in Russia to customers in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. 

The approval that has now been granted by Stralsund Mining Authority applies to a 240 kilometer section between Lubmin and Boizenburg/Elbe (Ludwigslust district), where the pipeline will cross the Elbe and continue westward through the district of Lüneburg. “Construction of the NEL accords very much with the objectives of energy industry legislation, namely to ensure that the general public has a piped gas supply that is as safe, low-cost, consumer-friendly, efficient and ecological as possible and so is in the public interest,” stated the Stralsund Mining Authority in its reasons for approving the gas pipeline, adding that the decision had been taken following intensive examination of the planning documents and the objections raised by public authorities, associations and private persons.

The present planning approval procedure was preceded by a regional planning procedure, which examined whether the project was compatible with the state’s planning for the region and existing projects. An initial corridor in which the pipeline is to run was defined as part of it. In particular, the project’s ecological compatibility and the concerns of all parties involved are examined and weighed against each other as part of the planning approval procedure. “To minimize the environmental impact, nature conservancy has been a key factor in planning the NEL from the outset,” says project manager Hans-Georg Egelkamp. “It’s not always the shortest path of a pipeline from start to finish that is chosen. Instead, its route is also the result of intensive dialog with specialized government agencies, landowners, municipalities and environmental associations.”