Planning Approval Process Initiated for NEL Nat. Gas Pipeline

The planning approval process for the section of Norddeutsche Erdgasleitung (NEL) natural gas pipeline, which is to run through Lower Saxony, has now been initiated.

"The planning documents will be laid open for public inspection in the relevant administrative districts along the pipeline route for a period of four weeks," announced Mr. Franz-Josef Kissing of E.ON Ruhrgas, the project manager, at a press briefing in Rotenburg.

The NEL pipeline is part of an overall energy industry concept. It is to connect the Nord Stream pipeline running through the Baltic Sea as well as the OPAL natural gas pipeline running to the Czech Republic with the European transmission network. Starting in Lubmin near Greifswald on the Baltic Sea, the NEL pipeline is to continue to Rehden in Lower Saxony. From here, the pipeline is to be tied in with the existing transmission networks of WINGAS TRANSPORT and E.ON Gastransport for onward transportation of the gas to many neighboring European countries of the European single market. The pipeline may also be connected to other transmission networks.

The NEL pipeline is thus making an important contribution to expanding the German and European transmission networks. The project is of European interest in the sense of the guiding principles of the European Parliament and European Council for trans-European energy networks. The planning approval process which has now started affects the administrative districts of Lüneburg, Harburg, Rotenburg/Wümme, Verden and Diepholz. This section of the pipeline is approximately 194 km long. The total pipeline length is approximately 435 km.

The pipeline is designed for a maximum operating pressure of 100 bar and may take approx. 20 billion m³ of natural gas annually from the Nord Stream pipeline for onward transportation. This roughly corresponds to the natural gas consumption of the North German federal states of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Bremen and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2006. The NEL pipeline is a joint project in which WINGAS GmbH & Co. KG, Kassel, holds a 75% share and E.ON Ruhrgas AG, Essen, a 25% share.

A positive decision from the regional planning authorities is the decision-making basis for the subsequent planning approval process which will be completed once the official approval of the plan, basically the approval for construction, has been obtained. In its regional planning decision, the competent authority, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Regional Development of the State of Lower Saxony stated that "the gas pipeline route presented is in line with the principles and objectives of regional planning and development taking due account of the environmental protection requirements and the plans and measures impacting on spatial structures of the planning agencies affected."

In the planning approval process, which has now started and for which the State Office of Mining, Energy and Geology is responsible, all questions raised in connection with the project are to be clarified in an orderly fashion and in compliance with applicable law. In particular, the environmental impact of the project is to be determined, evaluated and adequately reflected when discussing the project and deciding whether it is admissible. The planning approval process is expected to be completed in the first half of 2010.