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Sunday, February 5, 2023

LNG revolution: Germany’s plan to wean itself off Russian gasoline takes form

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A small orchard on the banks of the Elbe River in northern Germany, overgrown and circled by seagulls, holds the important thing to the nation’s Russia-free vitality future. 

The orchard, near town of Stade, will quickly be cleared to make method for a €1bn liquefied pure gasoline terminal, one in all three deliberate that ought to assist Germany reduce its dependence on Russian gasoline. 

“The location is perfect,” stated Jörg Schmitz, senior LNG mission director at chemical substances group Dow Germany, gesturing to the large sweep of the Elbe, the North Sea to the west and the port of Hamburg, Germany’s largest, to the east.

If Schmitz’s imaginative and prescient is realised, Stade will change into a hub within the world commerce of LNG, gasoline that has been supercooled to minus 160C so it may be shipped world wide on tankers. “If it all goes to plan we’ll see about 100 landings a year here, up to Q-Max size,” he stated, referring to the world’s greatest LNG carriers, every longer than three soccer pitches.

Stade is on the forefront of a revolution in German vitality. Just days after Russian troops streamed into Ukraine, chancellor Olaf Scholz introduced plans to radically cut back Germany’s reliance on Russian vitality. LNG will probably be very important to the plan to cut back Russian pure gasoline imports from 55 per cent of the whole to 10 per cent by the summer season of 2024.

But the change will probably be a problem. Germany’s new sprint for gasoline may conflict with its dedication to realize web zero carbon emissions by 2045. It may also wrestle to supply all of the LNG it wants.

“The million dollar question is whether they’ll be able to find enough LNG,” stated Frank Harris, an professional on the gasoline at vitality consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “There’s relatively little new supply over the next two-three years.”

The coverage shift is being applied with a velocity that’s uncommon for Germany. In the weeks after Scholz’s speech in late February, the federal government rushed to constitution 4 specialised ships generally known as floating storage and regasification models, or FSRUs — tankers with warmth exchangers that use seawater to show LNG again into gasoline.

The first FSRU comes on-line in Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea this 12 months. They will function as a stop-gap till the everlasting terminals come into operation. So far three potential websites have been recognized for these — in Stade, close by Brunsbüttel, additionally on the Elbe, and Wilhelmshaven.

Dow has been engaged on constructing a gasoline terminal within the space for the previous 5 years. “The idea was you should diversify your gas supply and not allow yourself to become too dependent on one source,” stated Schmitz.

Bar chart of Liquefied natural gas imports from countries outside the EU (€bn), 2021 showing European countries have turned to LNG from the US

Chartering the 4 FSRUs so shortly was a coup for Germany — there are extraordinarily few appropriate vessels out there. But discovering the ships was solely half the battle. “The big challenge is to fill this capacity with LNG, and that will be difficult because the resources on the market are so scarce,” stated Andreas Gemballa, director of LNG at Uniper, the German vitality firm.

Ironically, the most important supply of recent provide anticipated within the subsequent two-three years is from Russia — the Arctic LNG-2 mission on the Gydan Peninsula in northern Siberia. But that’s wanting “very challenged now”, stated Harris, largely as a result of sanctions have restricted Russia’s entry to financing and expertise, whereas some western patrons may not purchase gasoline from the mission.

Qatar may show to be a giant supply of LNG for Germany, and its manufacturing of the gasoline is because of improve 60 per cent by the center of the last decade. But 90-95 per cent of its present output has already been bought on long-term contracts. 

That displays one other downside for Berlin — LNG contracts are sometimes long-term. But having pledged to make Germany carbon-neutral by 2045 the federal government is perhaps reluctant to decide to importing fossil fuels for 20 years or extra. 

“Germany is saying — we want all this LNG, but we also want to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, including gas,” Harris stated. “It’s a mixed message.”

Bar chart of  % of total imports of natural gas into EU, 2021 showing Russia is the largest supplier of natural gas to the EU

In addition, plenty of the LNG Berlin has its eye on is listed to the worth of oil or, if coming from the US, to Henry Hub, the US gasoline benchmark, which might generally be greater than Dutch TTF, the European marker. That exposes patrons to dangers of economic losses. Such contracts “don’t conform to the way we price gas in Europe”, Gemballa stated.

For that motive, huge LNG producers similar to Qatar would possibly desire to strike offers with Asian international locations which have fewer qualms about signing 20-year contracts and are extra comfy with oil-indexed costs, Harris stated.

Robert Habeck, the Green financial system minister, personifies Germany’s dilemma. He has travelled to Qatar and the UAE to debate vitality co-operation and overseeing the beginning of building of the primary floating LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven in early May.

But he has additionally warned of the hazards of Germany getting caught with costly infrastructure that would lock in its dependence on fossil fuels.

Olaf Lies, environment minister of Lower Saxony, third from left, and Bernd Althusmann,  transport minister of Lower Saxony, second from right, hold the approval documents for the Stade LNG terminal
Olaf Lies, setting minister of Lower Saxony, third from left, and Bernd Althusmann, transport minister of Lower Saxony, second from proper, maintain the approval paperwork for the Stade LNG terminal

“In the short term we’ve been pretty successful at replacing Russian gas, but we have to make sure we’re not too successful,” he stated late final month. “We don’t want to spend the next 30-40 years building up a global natural gas industry that we don’t really want any more.”

The trick is, he stated, to construct “three or four times as many kilowatt hours of renewable energy” because the pure gasoline sources now being developed to quench Germany’s short-term thirst for the gasoline.

Timm Kehler, managing director of commerce physique Zukunft Gas, doesn’t see the upcoming wave of gasoline infrastructure building as an issue: the brand new terminals can even be designed to deal with “green hydrogen”, a low- or zero-carbon gasoline. “[They] will be a bridge into a future where we don’t import gas in the form of LNG but hydrogen in the form of ammonia,” he stated. 

For Dow’s Schmitz, Berlin’s sudden enthusiasm for LNG is a vindication. “The plan [for a terminal] always made commercial sense,” he stated. “But now it has geopolitical significance, too.”

Source: www.ft.com

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