Posted on November 16, 2022
Germany on Tuesday marked the completion of port facilities for the first of five planned liquefied natural gas terminals it is scrambling to put in place as it replaces the Russian pipeline gas that once accounted for more than half its supplies.
The site in the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven was one of two that the German government announced shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Germany until now has had no LNG terminals.
Five such terminals are planned in total — part of a drive to prevent an energy crunch that also includes temporarily reactivating old oil- and coal-fired power stations and extending the life of Germany’s last three nuclear power plants, which were supposed to be switched off at the end of this year, until mid-April.
Germany also filled its gas storage facilities ahead of the winter, although officials stress that it’s still necessary for households and businesses to save gas.
Construction work on the Wilhelmshaven terminal started in May. The next step will be the docking of a specially equipped ship, the so-called “floating storage and regasification unit.” Authorities hope that the terminal will be ready to start work and receive tankers full of LNG at the beginning of the year.
Christian Janzen, the project manager at the Wilhelmshaven terminal for gas importer Uniper, said they expect one LNG tanker a week to arrive there to unload gas that will be put into the German domestic pipeline network. The terminal would have an annual capacity of about 5 billion cubic meters of gas and receive some 170,000 cubic meters per week.
“This terminal is a significant building block for Germany’s supply security,” Janzen said. “With this, we can import about 8% of German natural gas consumption.”
Wilhelmshaven will be connected to the domestic gas network by a 26-kilometer (16-mile) pipeline that authorities say is nearly ready.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is responsible for energy, praised the “enormous speed” with which the terminal was built in a country where long planning processes have been a concern. “The example of Wilhelmshaven shows that Germany can be fast and advance infrastructure projects with great determination” when everyone pulls together, he said in a statement.
Four other LNG terminals are planned. Another terminal, at Brunsbuettel, also is expected to be ready around the turn of the year, with facilities in Stade, at Lubmin on the Baltic Sea coast and a second terminal in Wilhelmshaven also on the way.
Much of Germany’s current gas supply comes from or via Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Gas is used to heat homes, power industry and generate electricity. It accounted for 11.7% of Germany’s electricity generation in this year’s first half, down from 14.4% a year earlier. Coal made up 31.4% of the energy mix, renewable sources 48.5% and nuclear power 6%.
Efforts to make Germany independent of Russian gas were well underway before Russia started reducing supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which was its main supply route, in mid-June. Russia hasn’t supplied any gas to Germany since the end of August.
Geir Moulson reported from Berlin.