OPAL natural gas pipeline complete

Berlin/Kassel. Let the natural gas flow: after 22 months of construction, the largest natural gas pipeline in Western Europe, OPAL (Ostsee-Pipeline-Anbindungs-Leitung – Baltic Sea Pipeline Link) has now been completed. Together with Henning Heidemanns, State Secretary at the Brandenburg Ministry for Economics and European Affairs, the WINGAS Chairman Dr. Gerhard König and Henning R. Deters, Member of the Board of Management of E.ON Ruhrgas, gave the starting signal for the last of approximately 50,000 welding seams of the over 470-km-long Nord Stream connecting pipeline on the grounds of the OPAL compressor station in Baruth/Mark, south of Berlin.

“Thanks to the support of all those involved we have managed to complete OPAL according to schedule. Now we are ready to transport the natural gas from the reserves in Siberia to the consumers in Germany and in neighboring European countries,” Gerhard König explained. The OPAL pipeline was Germany‘s longest construction site in the last few months. Up to 2,500 staff laid over 26,000 pipe segments about 18 meters long and 15 tons in weight between the Baltic Sea coast and the Ore Mountains from September 2009. Following a test phase the pipeline will be commissioned in the fall together with the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline. Overall, WINGAS and E.ON Ruhrgas have invested over a billion euros in the energy infrastructure project.

The OPAL natural gas pipeline has proved to be an important factor for the regional economy: the billion-euro investment project funded by the private sector revived the regional labor market, especially during the financial crisis in 2009 and 2010, and boosted revenues in retail as well as local hotel and catering business in the surrounding communities. The companies commissioned with the construction of the pipeline alone employed more than 500 new staff from the region along the track during construction. Particularly in Brandenburg, numerous people found new jobs in the vicinity of the construction site. The realization of this pipeline project also lays the foundations for a powerful new communications infrastructure: fiber optic cables have been laid parallel to the natural gas pipeline for monitoring and controlling the natural gas streams, and they can also be used for public telecommunications. They make it possible to eliminate the many so-called ‘white spot’ areas, or areas without DSL access, mostly in the rural areas along the pipeline track.

Natural gas infrastructure increasingly important

The OPAL natural gas pipeline has a transport capacity of 36 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, which is equivalent to about a third of Germany’s current annual requirements of natural gas. “Natural gas will play a much more significant role in the energy mix of the future as an important partner of renewable energies,” König explained to numerous guests from politics and industry at the completion of the OPAL construction work. “Together with the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline, OPAL will make a key contribution to the future natural gas supply in Germany and Europe.” OPAL runs from the Baltic Sea coast through the federal states Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony to the Czech Republic. The gas is compressed for further transportation at the Radeland compressor station, which is situated half way along the track. 

“OPAL has gained in importance as a natural gas infrastructure project, especially against the backdrop of the energy revolution in Germany,” the Brandenburg state secretary for economics, Heinemanns, explained. Some of the natural gas will be withdrawn from OPAL in Groß Köris (Dahme-Spreewald district) to supply the Berlin-Brandenburg region. “The strong natural gas infrastructure in Brandenburg can play an important role in future in integrating renewable energies into the system,” the state secretary said confidently. “Natural gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest emissions and balances out fluctuations in production from renewable energies. Modern, efficient gas-fired power stations that can be started up quickly will be needed to ensure peak loads and when demand is low,” E.ON Ruhrgas Board Member Henning R. Deters said, underlining the significance of additional natural gas infrastructure.