February 2, 2023

Raven Tribune

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Natural gas crisis: Why there is no German LNG terminal yet

Withu At the beginning of the last decade, Frank Schnabel began a debate on the importation of deep-frozen, liquefied natural gas into Germany via a new terminal at the LB port in Brunspattel. “Eleven years ago I publicly discussed the potential for LNG infrastructure at Brunsbüttel,” said Schnabel, head of the Brunsbüttel port logistics company Schramm Group, WELT. “When I asked why we needed an LNG import terminal in the context of Germany’s good natural gas supply, I laughed at that, especially in politics.”

To date, Germany does not have a terminal for importing liquefied natural gas. It can take revenge now. For decades, Germany has relied primarily on Russia for natural gas imports, as well as Norway and the Netherlands. Natural gas comes by pipeline from these countries. But Russia, which supplies more than half of Germany’s natural gas needs, has amassed an army on the border with Ukraine, threatening the Eastern European country with war.

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The gas coming from Cove Point is not loaded into a port, but is loaded on a ship about two kilometers offshore.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has completely opened up what it means for Russia to further import natural gas into Germany and Europe. But one thing is clear: in this situation, Germany has no alternative but to import natural gas directly from other parts of the world, such as the United States, Arabia or Australia – because it has no import terminal. “Today,” Schnabel says, “we know better than we did then, why such a facility is good.” In the last few days, the central government has announced that it now wants to provide more targeted support for construction. LNG terminals. However, under ideal conditions, such systems would only be ready to operate in a few years.

Plans for four LNG terminals

Prior to the start of this decade, there were plans for a total of four LNG terminals in Germany. WilhelmshavenBrunspattel, State And Rostock. Projects in Wilhelmshaven and Rostock were abandoned. Investors involved in projects at Brunsbüttel and Stade make sure they want to continue implementing them. However, they did not say when the systems, which cost 500 million euros each, would hit the market. There are many reasons why even an LNG terminal in Germany has not become a reality to date. Simply put, politicians and potential investors have been asking each other for years to pay in advance – be it investment decisions and timelines or improving the legal framework in the energy market.

LNG technology was established in Asia decades ago. Countries like Japan and South Korea do not have natural gas import pipelines. Natural gas must be imported by tanker. At the import terminal, the liquid gas is brought back in gaseous form and fed to the regional network. For a long time, LNG was more expensive than piped gas. On the other hand, the inclusion of LNG in the energy mix has already increased the supply security of the respective importing countries because LNG can be traded as crude oil – with many market participants involved in production and consumption. LNG now competes with pipeline gas. Europe already has LNG terminals, for example Zeebrugge or Rotterdam. However, in the event of a crisis, the EU will need more entry points to offset the loss of pipeline gas from Russia.

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The oil refinery at Heidel, Shelswick-Holstein, is one of the locations in the future in northern Germany where hydrogen will be generated by wind through electrolysis.

Apart from the Ukraine crisis, Germany needs more natural gas in the medium term – renewable energy alone will not meet the energy demand, especially in view of the complete phase and accelerated phase of nuclear power. Out of coal. “We need LNG a bridging technology,” says manager Schnabel. The plan and intent to use “green” hydrogen as a suitable energy source for distribution in Germany is good and right: “But before green hydrogen can be produced or imported from renewable sources, at least ten years will pass under affordable economic conditions.”

The German LNG terminal GmbH, a Brunsbüttel facility realization company, said in a statement: “In principle, we are more convinced of the need for the project. However, it is a more complex, costly and long-term investment.

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The company is supported by investors OilTanking from Germany and Kasuni from the Netherlands. Wobak, a Dutch tank storage group, recently withdrew from an “active” position for a “passive” investor. The operating company does not have an exact schedule, but among others has used the planning approval procedure for the required port: “In times of corona epidemics, it is more difficult than ever to publish reliable reports on the exact deadline. The plan, so we have avoided doing as before.”

Political twist?

The operating company of the “Hanseatic Energy Hub” for the LNG terminal in the state is more stable at least in terms of time. “We plan to start operations in 2026. However, we are closely monitoring the current market situation,” a spokesman said. “We can only assess whether the milestones will be postponed if the market turmoil calms down somewhat and the political framework conditions in Germany and Europe become more stable.” The project is backed by Belgian natural gas supplier Flux, a financial investor. Partners Group in Switzerland and the BUSS Group, a port and logistics company in Hamburg.

The crisis in Ukraine may bring a new impetus to the remaining two projects. Recently, both Union Economy and Energy Minister Robert Hebeck (Greens) and Union President Olaf Scholes (SPD) have given more political support to setting up one or more LNG terminals. In recent years, Greens, along with environmental protection associations, have opposed the use of LNG because it is harmful to the environment and climate.

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Johann Killinger, owner of the bus group, in front of Jacob Tolkien's artwork at his Hamburg headquarters

Johann Killinger, executive partner of the BUSS Group, sees a political trend in the LNG affair turning upside down. “Germany is just now waking up to the topic of LNG. Recent statements by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholes and Federal Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Robert Hebeck show the same. You have realized the urgency of the problem. Apparently the pressure should be as high as it is now, “he told the WELT.” I believe in the plan for an LNG terminal in the state.

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Legal conditions for LNG in Germany need to be improved, that is – costs to importers for – state-regulated – network access: “When there are sufficient capacity bookings from LNG customers, we make the investment decision for the LNG terminal in the state, as required by other political frameworks.” .Ka. Adjusting German regulations to European standards will help reduce network access charges for LNG imports “.

So far, Germany has not been competitive when it comes to LNG: “So far, there have been no strong signals from politicians to major exporting countries that Germany wants to participate in this market. We want to talk to those in charge of politics about this. ”