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ENERGY

Will Germany’s gas supplies last the winter?

The German Association for Natural Gas, Petroleum and Geoenergy (BVEG) says it does not expect any gas bottlenecks in the coming winter, provided there are no further restrictions on Russian gas supply.

The facility of the natural gas storage of Astora GmbH in Lower Saxony.
The facility of the natural gas storage of Astora GmbH in Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Despite the significantly reduced supply of Russian gas which has been impacting Germany for weeks, German gas storage facilities are now more than 75 percent full.

Managing Director of the German Association for Natural Gas, Petroleum and Geoenergy (BVEG) Ludwig Möhring said that, if the supply situation remains as it is and if conservation efforts continue, “we will be able to fill the gas storage facilities as planned, given normal weather conditions.” 

According to the latest data from European gas storage operators on Saturday evening, the fill level of Germany’s gas storage facilities is 75.43 percent. This means the first storage target of a new energy conservation regulation was reached more than two weeks earlier than planned. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much will Germany’s gas levy cost you?

“We reached the first interim goal ahead of schedule. That is pleasing,” said Klaus Müller, president of the Federal Network Agency. “Now it is important not to slack off in filling the storage facilities. The gas that is now flowing into the storage facilities can help us in the winter.” 

However, the next targets are ambitious, he said.

The regulation states that German storage facilities must be at least 75 percent full by September 1st, at least 85 percent full by October 1st and at 95 percent by November 1st. The amount of gas stored at a fill level of 95 percent is roughly equivalent to Germany’s gas consumption in January and February 2022.

The managing director of the storage association Ines, Sebastian Bleschke, said that cold autumnal weather could still lead to the November target being missed. “If there are normal temperatures in October, the beginning of the heating season has a strong impact on the possibility of storing gas. On particularly cold days, gas withdrawals can be so high that inputs do not meet demand,” Bleschke said. 

READ ALSO: 8 simple ways you can save on heating costs in Germany

According to the Federal Network Agency, gas consumption in Germany this year – up to and including July – was almost 14 percent lower than in the same period last year. According to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the main reasons for this are both mild weather and high prices.

Russia is still pumping natural gas to Germany, but for more than two weeks the important Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline has only been operating at around 20 percent capacity. The Russian gas company blames this on technical reasons, while the German government considers this to be a deliberate, politically motivated move.

Vocabulary

Regulation – (die) Verordnung

Storage facility – (der) Speicher

To fill – etwas füllen

Heating season – (die) Heizperiode

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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ENERGY

Germany builds new gas terminals to succeed Russian pipelines

Germany's most strategically important building site is at the end of a windswept pier on the North Sea coast, where workers are assembling the country's first terminal for the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Germany builds new gas terminals to succeed Russian pipelines

Starting this winter, the rig, close to the port of Wilhelmshaven, will be able to supply the equivalent of 20 percent of the gas that was until recently imported from Russia.

Since its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has throttled gas supplies to Germany, while the Nord Stream pipelines which carried huge volumes under the Baltic Sea to Europe were damaged last week in what a Danish-Swedish report called “a deliberate act.

In the search for alternative sources, the German government has splashed billions on five projects like the one in Wilhelmshaven.

a man works at the wilhelmshaven lNG terminal

A man works at the construction site of the LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven on September 29, 2022. (Photo by FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP)

Altogether the new fleet should be able to handle around 25 billion cubic metres of gas per year, roughly equivalent to half the capacity of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

READ ALSO: Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas under Baltic Sea: spokesman

New platform

At the site in Wilhelmshaven, the half-finished concrete platform emerging from the sea sprays workers in fluorescent yellow vests with a fine mist.

Back on solid land, a constant stream of lorries delivers sections of grey pipe, which should relay the terminal to the gas network.

LNG terminals allow for the import by sea of natural gas which has been chilled and turned into a liquid to make it easier to transport.

A specialist vessel, known as an FSRU, which can stock the fuel and turn LNG back into a ready-to-use gas, is also hooked up to the platform to complete the installation.

landside construction site of the LNG terminal in wilhelmshaven

A worker rides a bike next to a pipeline at the landside construction site of the Uniper LNG in Wilhelmshaven on September 29, 2022. (Photo by FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP)

Unlike other countries in Europe, Germany until now did not have an LNG terminal, instead relying on relatively cheap pipeline supplies from Russia.

But since the invasion of Ukraine, Germany has set about weaning itself off Moscow’s gas exports, which previously represented 55 percent of its supplies.

To diversify its sources, secure enough supplies of the fuel and keep its factories working, Berlin has bet massively on LNG to fill the gap left by Russian imports.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz last week signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates for the supply of LNG, while touring Gulf states in search of new sources.

Renting five FSRU ships to plug into the new terminals has also set Berlin back three billion euros ($2.9 billion).

Environment

Following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Germany passed a law to drastically speed up the approval process for LNG terminals.

COO holger kreetz at wilhelmshaven lng terminal

Chief Operating Officer of German energy company Uniper, Holger Kreetz, is pictured during a media event at the construction site of the Uniper Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at the Jade Bight in Wilhelmshaven on September 29, 2022.  (Photo by FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP)

In Wilhelmshaven, the work is coming along rapidly. The terminal should be finished “this winter”, says Holger Kreetz, who heads the project for German energy company Uniper.

The strategic importance of the terminal has seen building work advance surprisingly quickly. “Normally, a project like this takes us five to six years,” Kreetz tells AFP.

The arrival of the new terminal has been welcomed by many residents in Wilhelmshaven, where deindustrialisation has pushed the unemployment rate up to 10 percent, almost twice the national average.

“It’s good that it’s in Wilhelmshaven… it’ll bring jobs,” Ingrid Schon, 55, tells AFP.

Opposition comes from groups who fear the accelerated timescales for approval and construction could come at a cost to the environment.

The landside construction site of the Uniper  lng terminal in wilhelmshaven

The landside construction site of the Uniper LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, pictured on September 29, 2022. (Photo by FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP)

Young activists from the group “Ende Gelaende” managed to block the site in Wilhelmshaven for a day in August.

The German environmental organisation DUH said the works would “irreversibly destroy sensitive ecosystems as well as endanger the living space of threatened porpoises”.

The source of the fuel has also been a sore point, with concerns raised that natural gas produced from fracking in the United States could be imported via the new terminal.

Criticism of the project has been dismissed by Economy Minister Robert Habeck, a Green party politician, who has emphasised the importance of “energy security”.

By 2030, the site is set to be converted for the importation of green hydrogen, produced with renewables, which Berlin has backed as part of its energy transition.

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