The West-Austria-Gasleitung (WAG), commissioned in 1980, is one of the most important gas transmission system in Austria. It runs for 245 kilometres between the Baumgarten gas hub on the slovak border to the german border in Oberkappel.
The WAG was originally designed to transport gas from east to west, is technically optimised for this purpose and has been approved by the authorities. This means, for example, that a parallel pipeline was laid after the compressor stations, but not along the entire length. In the reverse flow (from west to east), the pipeline therefore has significantly lower capacities than in the original east-west flow. Over the years, however, the demand for transport from west to east increased. With the war in Ukraine in 2022, the compressors in the reverse flow reached their limits and were operated hard at the limit for the important stockpiling of storage facilities and to compensate the omitted russian gas volumes.
Due to the current geopolitical situation and in view of the imminent expiry of the transport contracts between Russia and Ukraine at the end of 2024, there is a risk of a gas shortage for the Eastern European region (see graph). The urgent expansion of the West-East route is therefore particularly important. It provides access to gas sources from North-West Europe, e.g. Norway, and to LNG delivered along the coast in Germany, Belgium, Holland and France. This will secure Austria's supply.
Operating a pipeline in reverse flow is like driving a car in reverse. It can be done, but it is far from normal operation. In order to increase the transport capacity so urgently needed for the west-east operation, a gradual expansion of the WAG is unavoidable. This will allow more gas to be delivered to Austria from the western neighbouring countries.
Step-by-step expansion: WAG LOOP 1
The first phase, known as WAG Loop 1, will focus on security of supply in Austria. Further expansion steps can be taken if necessary. In the first part of the loop, the approximately 40-kilometre section from Oberkappel to Bad Leonfelden is to be extended with a parallel line, in addition to the existing line. This additional, parallel transport line would increase the transport capacity from Germany at the Oberkappel and Überackern border points together by around 30 percent, or 27 TWh per year. In addition, this capacity increase will allow more flexibility in the injection and withdrawal of gas into and from the Haidach and Seven Fields gas storage facilities in Upper Austria.
Project for the energy transition
The implementation of the WAG Loop also paves the way for the transport of green hydrogen in larger quantities in the future. In the future, natural gas and hydrogen could be transported simultaneously in the network via the then parallel pipeline system. Embedded in the planning of a European hydrogen network, it creates the basis for transport corridors envisaged in the European Hydrogen Backbone. This will make it possible to supply Austrian industry, for example in the Linz area or the Schwechat refinery, with renewable energy.
Facts about WAG LOOP 1
- 40 kilometres of parallel pipeline from Oberkappel to Bad Leonfelden in Upper Austria
- Project duration: 3.5 years in total, including 1 year of pure construction time
- Capacity increase: 27 TWh/year (2.5 billion m³) corresponds to +30
- Investment required: around 200 million euros
- Can be used for hydrogen transport in the future