Past the half-way mark on Germany’s longest building site

Kassel. It’s half-time on Germany’s longest building site: 250 of the approx. 470 kilometers of the OPAL (Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung – Baltic Sea Pipeline Link) have already been completed. “We are very satisfied with the progress of the construction work so far,” Bernd Vogel, Managing Director of OPAL NEL TRANSPORT GmbH, explained. The company is part of the WINGAS Group and will perform the tasks of network operator for OPAL.

“Despite the long winter and difficult weather conditions at the start of the year, we are on schedule. We want to bring OPAL on stream in October 2011 together with the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline.” The OPAL pipeline will connect the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea with the European gas pipeline system and will run from the German Baltic Sea coast through Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony all the way to the Czech Republic. With an annual transport capacity of 36 billion cubic meters and a diameter of 1.4 meters, OPAL is the largest natural gas pipeline to be laid in Europe. The investment sum for the pipeline is around one billion euros. The pipeline is being built by WINGAS on behalf of OPAL NEL TRANSPORT GmbH and E.ON Ruhrgas AG.

“We are currently working on 14 different sections simultaneously,” Michael Muth, the Chief Construction Manager at WINGAS, explains. A good portion of the construction work in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony is already expected to be completed towards the end of the year. And in Brandenburg, the longest of the three sections, the first 100 of the 270 kilometers overall have already been laid. Construction work on the OPAL pipeline began in September 2009. There are currently 2,500 people working on the entire pipeline track between Greifswald and the Ore Mountains. The builders will have to cross 172 streets, four highways, 27 rail lines and 39 large water areas before completing the construction work. “The topsoil has been removed from more than 400 kilometers of the pipeline track; almost 350 kilometers of pipes have been welded together,” Muth, said detailing the progress of construction work. The construction manager is certain that this major project will be completed on time: “We have already begun recultivating the farmland in some areas.”

In addition to OPAL, another pipeline, the NEL (Norddeutsche Erdgasleitung – North German Gas Link), is planned: the NEL will run from where the Nord Stream pipeline comes on land in Lubmin and pass by Schwerin and Hamburg until reaching the natural gas storage facility in Rehden in Lower Saxony. The planning approval process for the 440-km-long pipeline is currently underway in Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The permit is expected to be granted at the end of the year. Construction is scheduled to start in 2011. The NEL has been designed with a capacity of 20 billion cubic meters. Around one billion euros have been earmarked for investments in this planned pipeline project.