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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).

The construction site of the Uniper Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Wilhelmshaven
The construction site of the Uniper Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea coast, northwestern Germany, is pictured on September 29, 2022. The terminal is set to come online towardfs the end of 2023 as Germany seeks to wean itself off Russian pipeline imports. Photo: FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP

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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ENERGY

Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

Germany and Norway want to start a NATO-led alliance to protect critical underwater infrastructure, their leaders said on Wednesday, weeks after explosions hit two key gas pipelines in the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

 “We are in the process of asking the NATO Secretary General to set up a coordination office for the protection of underwater infrastructure,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.

“We take the protection of our critical infrastructure very seriously and nobody should believe that attacks will remain without consequences,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the alliance would be “an informal initiative to exchange between civilian and also military actors” with NATO providing “a centre, a coordination point”.

Underwater cables and pipelines were “arteries of the modern economy” and it was necessary to create “a coordinated joint effort to ensure security for this infrastructure”, he said.

Scholz said he and Store would propose the plan to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is due in Berlin for a security conference. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm were targeted by two huge explosions at the end of September.

The pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, had been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Moscow cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected
retaliation to Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Although they were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

Several European countries have since taken steps to increase security around critical infrastructure. 

The G7 interior ministers warned earlier this month at a meeting in Germany that the Nord Stream explosions had highlighted “the need to better protect our critical infrastructure”.

Norway has become Europe’s main gas supplier in the wake of the war in Ukraine, taking the place of Russia.

The Scandinavian country has a vast network of pipelines, stretching for almost 9,000 kilometres, linking it to the continent, which experts have said are at risk of sabotage.

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