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German Opal gas pipeline reports interest in renewed capacity auctions

FRANKFURT (Reuters) — Pipeline operator Opal Gastransport said on Wednesday it had seen interest in shipping more Russian natural pipeline gas volumes into storage and to the Czech Republic after restarting day-ahead auctions on the German onshore link last week.

Opal Gas Pipeline

Germany's Oberlandesgericht Duesseldorf court last month preliminarily rejected a legal challenge capping the amount of gas that Russia's Gazprom can ship on the 470-km Opal, which carries gas from the Nord Stream pipeline arriving in northern Germany.

"We are very satisfied with the way that the first day-ahead auctions have turned out," a spokeswoman for Opal Gastransport said.

"We held talks with a number of customers ahead of the auctions, therefore received bookings from several parties, and hope that the number will still increase," she added.

Of 12.8 Bcm of new availability - just under half the pipeline's total—bookings were made for between 4.9 and 6.8 Bcm over the past few days, she added.

Neither bidders nor the size of their allocations are publicized.

A spokesman for Germany's energy regulator confirmed that his authority last week lifted the interim cap that had been in existence since February, following the court's decision.

This is ahead of the same court delivering a final ruling on the case, which it has said could be in the first half of 2018.

Opal was assuming that to meet that schedule, the court would start revisiting the case again in detail in the autumn of 2017, the spokeswoman said.

She said Opal would start monthly auctions from September and quarterly ones from November on the PRISMA capacity auction website.

Gazprom was expected to be making use of the wider capacity allocation, having been restricted to just 50 percent of the pipeline after the challenge to its access was brought by Polish firms PGNiG and PGNiG Supply & Trading late last year.

The Polish firms targeted Opal because of fears that Russia's $11.1 B plan to double Nord Stream could reduce the amount of Russian gas transiting Poland and increase the country's dependency on foreign-sourced gas.

Opening Opal removed a hurdle to the Nord Stream expansion, which involves Gazprom and five Western partners.

But there are plenty of others, the latest being US President Donald Trump's threatened sanctions, related to Russia's activities in Crimea, on energy companies that do business with Russia.

Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Dale Hudson

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