A high-pressure gas pipeline is a system of pipes, associated equipment and stations, allowing gas to be transported at an operating pressure exceeding 16 bars (16 atmospheres).
In the Czech Republic, the network of high-pressure gas pipelines has a total length of about 2,460 km. Most of this network is owned by NET4GAS and the individual distribution companies which use it for transporting natural gas. The pipes run through all the regions and districts of the country.
For customers in the Czech Republic the price of natural gas is based on an agreement between the customer and a particular supplier. This price is influenced mainly by developments in the prices of oil and petroleum products on world markets, and the strength of the Czech crown against the euro and dollar. In this context, the construction of the pipeline can therefore only have a negligible impact.
In general, the gas will have flowed from Russia to Greifswald in Germany, and on from there via the OPAL pipeline to Brandov on the Czech-German border. This is where the first connection is to be made with the NET4GAS transmission system.
In most cases, therefore, gas will be flowing via the pipeline into the Czech Republic and on to other parts of Germany. However, the pipeline has been designed for two-way operation, so that the direction of gas flow can be reversed if necessary. This situation might arise if, for example, the flow of gas along the Baltic pipeline was blocked, and it was necessary to transport a greater quantity of gas to Germany via pipelines running through the Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Natural gas can also be liquefied and then transported in tanks, for example. This option is much more expensive, though, and involves a number of safety risks. It also requires complex liquefaction equipment, special means of transportation including road tankers, and customers must use gasification equipment. For this reason, pipeline transportation of natural gas is currently considered to be the best option, both economically and ecologically.
The route proposed for a high-pressure pipeline depends on a number of factors, including relevant development planning documentation, the conditions of the terrain involved, the results of an environmental impact assessment and, not least of all, the cost effectiveness of the given design. The chosen path must comply with the requirements of a range of European standards and national technical regulations.
GAZELLE will not run through any towns or densely populated areas, and complies with all applicable regulations and standards covering the routes and operation of gas pipelines.
To facilitate aerial inspection, yellow pipeline markers with white discs at the top will be placed at turning points of the pipeline in the terrain. A geodetic survey will be made of the final route of the pipeline so that it will be possible to locate every point using GPS.
The Ministry of the Environment has given its approval based on an environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out for the new pipeline, in which a detailed examination was made of all the project’s potential effects. The Ministry recommended that the best option would be to route the pipeline along an existing energy corridor already used by gas and other pipelines, with only a part of the pipeline crossing new land on the section between Mladotice and Chomutov.
The mayors of all the towns and villages near the planned route were informed about the project. Everyone involved also had the opportunity to express their comments and views on the project plan during the EIA process. The Ministry of the Environment then incorporated the relevant issues raised into the conditions of its approval.
NET4GAS has asked RWE Plynoprojekt to prepare the documentation for the development planning proceedings and all the associated permits. At the same time, all the relevant landowners will be contacted, and easement agreements will be concluded with them allowing the construction of the pipeline on their land in exchange for financial consideration.
Natural gas has been transported to the Czech Republic for over thirty years now. Not only has there never been an explosion, but there has never even been an interruption in supply. Over that whole period only two operational accidents have been recorded, and both were without fatalities or any large-scale material damage. Thanks to the advanced technologies currently used and the safety requirements that are applied, a pipeline explosion is highly unlikely.
No health problems have ever been registered in connection with the installation of gas pipelines in the vicinity of housing.
Gas pipelines are very environmentally friendly. Because certain activities are prohibited in their immediate vicinity, the natural character of the countryside is preserved in the protective zone of pipelines. In addition, transporting gas underground does not pollute the air in the way that road transportation does. The only impacts will be short-term ones, during the pipeline’s construction.
The project is directly linked to the construction of the OPAL pipeline in Germany and the Nord Stream pipeline on the bed of the Baltic Sea. The objectives are to boost the capacity of the network of pipelines used to ensure a stable gas supply to the Czech Republic and other EU countries, and also to increase the number of routes along which this raw material flows, in order to strengthen the security of these supplies.
On average it takes workers 2 minutes 54 seconds to construct each metre of pipeline.
The depth of cover (i.e. the distance between the upper surface of the pipes and ground level) is typically in the range of 0.8 m to 1.5 m. The ground plan of the designed pipeline is 1.40 m in width and the nominal diameter of the pipes is DN 1400.
As the builder-investor, NET4GAS will cover all the costs of repairing any damage caused by the construction work.
It will take at most 1 year to return the land to its original state and agricultural use. The launch of the operation of the GAZELLE pipeline itself is scheduled for the end of 2012.
Plots of land earmarked for development should be denoted as such in the municipality’s development plan. If a municipality does not have a development plan, building is allowed only in the built-up area of the municipality marked on the relevant cadastral maps, which may refer as far back as to 1966. The route of the pipeline should not pass through either of these areas. However, a final specification will be made during the development planning proceedings, in which municipalities are required to participate based on the Building Act.
If a landowner refuses to allow their land to be used, changing the route will be considered. However, it must be borne in mind that in the case of a pipeline with a diameter of 1.4 metres the options are very limited. If it is not possible to change the route, the procedure specified in the applicable legislation, Act No. 458/2000 Coll., as amended (the Energy Act), will be followed – i.e. an application will be made for a decision establishing a statutory easement.
The fields above the pipeline can be sown, ploughed and farmed in other ways after the pipeline has been built because the pipes are safely laid about 1 m deep in the earth. However, care must be taken not to interfere with the above-ground markers (e.g. pipeline markers) showing the location of the pipeline in the landscape.
All the trucks and machinery involved will move only within a defined working strip, and on access roads with a width of 36 m in open terrain and 30 m in forested areas. The working strip will be marked out with stakes. The disruption during the period of construction will only be short-term, and the environmental impacts of the work are dealt with in accordance with applicable legislation. An environmental impact assessment for the construction work has already been made and discussed as specified in Act No. 100/2001 Coll. (in line with the “EIA programme”). Environmental requirements will be incorporated into the conditions of the development planning permit and/or building permit, and must be strictly adhered to by construction companies when building the pipeline.
The operating pressure of the gas in the pipes will be 7.3 MPa (i.e. 73 bars, or approximately 73 atmospheres. For comparison, the recommended pressure of the air in a spare car tyre is around 3 bars).
The estimated service life of the pipeline is 70 years, but provided that correct maintenance procedures are adhered to this period may be extended to up to 100 years.
To inspect the condition of its gas pipelines NET4GAS, s.r.o. uses a piece of equipment known as a “pig”, which is propelled through the pipes by the pressure of the gas, i.e. without an external power source, so it is not necessary to do any digging work in order to perform regular checks.
As a measure against the leakage of gas from pipes, the pipeline will be divided into sections by a system of shut-off valves and other technological units (such as cleaning chambers). All the valves on the lines and the first valves on branches running off the main pipeline will be fitted with electronic “line break” devices which react to the rate of any pressure drop in the line. If there is a gas leak, these valves will automatically shut off the relevant damaged section of the pipeline. In addition to this system, the operation of the pipeline will also be continuously monitored by the Dispatching Centre.
Due to the required pressure and volume of the transported gas it will not be necessary to build any extra compressor or regulating stations. The existing shut-off stations on the parallel pipeline sections will be enlarged, as additional connections will be made here with the Czech Republic’s transit system.
The estimated volume of gas will be 30-33 billion m3 per year.
The estimated investment is EUR 400 million.
The project is aimed at developing new routes for the flow of gas, and has no direct link with profits.