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ČR and Austria to be connected by gas pipeline

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In a few years, the first large gas pipeline will connect the Czech Republic and Austria. The company Česká plynárenská last year signed a contract to buy Norwegian gas, and it now wants to construct a nearly 100 km-long pipeline that would connect an underground gas storage facility with Austria’s gas pipeline West-Austria-Gasleitung (WAG).

The construction of a gas pipeline with the working tile Mozart will begin next year. “We would like to have it ready by 2012, before we finish building the storage facility,” says Ladislav Dráb, co-owner of Česká plynárenská.

But experts in the field are somewhat sceptical about the plans of this company, which belongs to the families of Ladislav Dráb and Marek Černý. “Just look at all the complications with permits and property speculators RWE has with its pipline Gazela,” says one expert. But Dráb refutes the criticism. “We have been working on this project since mid-2007,” he says.

The construction alone will cost nearly a billion crowns. “We are getting financing through funds from Canada and the United States,” says Dráb. He does not rule out that he will also try to get EU money. In reaction to the recent gas crisis, the EU wants to find billions of euros to connect energy networks between countries. “But the project is conceived in such a way, so that it can be economically self sufficient,” says Dráb.

On the gas market there are also speculations that some European energy company could be backing the project. A similar project – that is, leading a gas pipeline between the Czech Republic and Austria – was planned by the German Company E.ON, which delivers gas to southern Bohemia.

Even though the gas pipeline will serve mainly to connect the planned storage facility to Austrian pipes belonging to the company OMCV, in case of a crisis, it will enable the Czech Republic to get extra gas supplies. The underground storage, which Česká plynárenská plans to build near Okrouhlá Radouň in the Jindřichův Hradec area for CZK 7 billion, will be connected to the Czech transit gas pipeline.

“In case of a crisis, we would give the state 100% control over the operation and usage,” says Dráb.

Every new north-south connection can be useful, experts say. Right now all major gas pipelines in the Czech Republic are led east-west, and if the taps are turned off in one direction, problems can arise.

“The new connection will help bring about greater stability,” says Josef Fiřt of the Energy Regulatory Office. He says the Czech gas market is not open enough because nearly all gas supplies come through RWE.

Fiřt says that aside from new gas pipelines, the country should also expand the capacity of its gas storage facilities and improve their access. “We can expect an investment boom in this field, and as regulators, we support it,” says Fiřt.

RWE and Moravské naftové doly also plan on building gas storage facilities.

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