The total European transmission system extends over some 132,000 km of pipes, connected to 174,000 km in Russia and Ukraine, which is in turn connected to other pipelines further east. These networks service vast distribution systems. To give an indication of the scale, Ruhrgas estimates the length of the buried transmission and distribution network in Germany alone at 365,000 km.
The scale of these figures demonstrates the reason why gas majors and the pipeline companies have such a high degree of influence in the natural gas industry and on policy. The liberalisation of the electricity and water sectors, the latter in its infancy, have contributed to the rise of a new generation of multi-utility companies such as RWE, E.On, Vivendi, Suez, Duke, Southern and others (not to mention Enron) but before liberalisation, electricity companies did not have the innate international scale of the oil and gas companies. There were electricity companies which invested abroad, such as Electricité de France, with its activities in the Francophone countries around the world and many other large electricity companies looking for profitable overseas investments. However, they all rested on their national base and the expansion was a business-driven expansion. The gas industry is by nature international because the geographical distribution of natural gas dictates a huge transport operation.
In July 2007, the final stage of market opening according to the EU Directive was reached. All of the original EU 15 countries opened their markets 100% except for Portugal and Greece which were 43% and 74% open respectively. Not data exists for Finland. Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia were fully opened. Latvian market has not opened their markets at all and the Hungarian market was 25% open. More recent data was not available for Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Comparison of the two charts below demonstrates the rate of progress, comparing the situations in 2004, 2006 and 2007.