Following a German court’s lifting of a restriction on the Opal pipeline last month, Russian gas major Gazprom reported using the line to full capacity on Wednesday.
The instance was the first since the line was allowed to return to normal operations after the court case. Poland had lodged a complaint against Gazprom back in December, but it got thrown out as authorities saw no reason to limit the Russian firm’s business in Germany.
Opal carries gas from Nord Stream in northern Germany to consumers in the south. Surrounding nations, like the Czech Republic, also benefit from the line.
The European Union wants to limit Russian leverage on the continent by limiting member countries’ imports of natural gas. This plan is challenged by Germany’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 line, which will double the capacity of the currently operational pipeline of the same name.
“The Yamal pipeline has been constrained by maintenance since August 8th and is currently not flowing gas,” Reuters analyst Oliver Sanderson said in response to the capacity announcement. “There is no indication yet that the Opal pipeline will bring a substantial increase in Russian deliveries compared to volumes prior to the maintenance on the Yamal line.”
Russia and its state firm Gazprom cover one-third of Europe’s gas needs, though the EU continues sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and activities in the Ukraine.
New EU negotiations with Russia could delay Nord Stream 2 to post-2019, giving Western-backed Ukraine the upper hand in talks on transit fees for Russian gas passing through to Europe. The route through Kiev is currently the most popular for gas supplies headed to Europe. Nord Stream 2 would bypass Ukraine, cutting off a key revenue source for the ex-Soviet nation.
Nord Stream 2 has also been the target of new U.S. sanctions against Russia, though not explicitly, as Washington seeks to punish the Kremlin for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential elections, as well as for its role in Syria and Ukraine.