Germany’s first LNG terminal is open for business – EURACTIV.com

Deprived of cheap Russian gas, Germany’s alternative infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) is operational, opening a new era in German energy policy. It was a foggy and overcast day in the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven, yet Germany’s political top-brass were in full attendance, dressed in high-vis jackets, to look in awe upon a jetty built using 14,000 tons of steel, 1,500 tons of special-made steel pipes and 3,000 cubic meters of concrete. The special jetty was constructed in months to host the “Hoegh Esperanza”, a floating LNG terminal that has become a beacon of hope for the German government. Not only was the ship constructed at unprecedented speed, it is also a major step in Berlin’s quest to live without Russia gas in the not-so-distant future. “Today we are taking a very important step for security of supply in Germany,” explained Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, on Saturday (December 17). Habeck, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Finance Minister Christian Lindner, the heads of the German government, traveled to Lower Saxony to inaugurate the country’s first LNG terminal. Cooled down to -162 °C, the gas can be compressed, turned into a liquid and shipped around the world as LNG. Germany, which received almost all of its gas via pipeline from Russia and Norway, never had the infrastructure necessary to turn LNG back into gaseous form. When Russia set out to invade Ukraine, amassing troops at its borders, the new government that just came to power, asked itself: If the Kremlin acts on its plans, where will our gas come from? As EURACTIV understands, the government began looking at floating LNG terminals in early February 2022. Indeed, as the construction of land-based LNG terminals would take too long, a faster option was needed. Constructing significant new infrastructure within a year is nearly unprecedented in Germany, which is infamous for public projects that run significantly over time and over budget. The new LNG terminals “shows what Germany can achieve within a few months if it has to,” Habeck underlined. Scholz went so far as to coin a new term. “This is now the new Germany-pace at which we are bringing infrastructure projects forward,” he told reporters. “Deutschland-Tempo,” a new term to accompany the Zeitenwende. The LNG Acceleration Act must be a blueprint for policy. Plan, build and modernize faster,” added Christian Lindner, the country’s finance minister. Germany inaugurates first new LNG terminal The German government inaugurated its first floating terminal on Tuesday (15 November), built in record time and intended to receive liquefied natural gas as part of Berlin’s plan to replace Russian gas, with the first regasification ship set to dock in mid-December. Plugging a hole Germany, which once imported some 50 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year for its own consumption from Russia, has been leaning on neighbors to fill the gap: LNG imports through the Netherlands, Belgium and France as well as larger flows from Norway. “Our gas will come to a large extent from Norway, from the USA and the Gulf, and a small part from the Netherlands,” Scholz told the Suddeutsche Zeitung. In all, the two government-leased floating LNG terminals and a private one in the Baltic Sea, will allow for extra LNG imports of some 13 bcm. By winter 2023, another three floating LNG terminals will be operational, and a pipeline will be expanded, boosting the capacity by another 19 bcm. Next winter, Germany will be capable of importing some 32 bcm, according to the terminal’s declared regasification capacity. Internal government documents assess a peak capacity of 44.5 bcm – a sizable chunk, which has activists worried that Germany is slipping into LNG overcapacity as onshore LNG terminals are constructed. Meanwhile, Germany’s gas consumption continues to be too high to avoid gas shortages, the country’s grid agency warned earlier this week, with gas stores dropping below 90% amid the ongoing cold snap. Both the current gas consumption and temperate outlook are “critical,” the federal grid agency warned. Environmental concerns The celebrations of Germany’ political top brass were marred by continued environmental protests, which necessitated significant police presence. While politicians lauded the speed of construction, it came at the cost of botched environmental impact assessments. Activists fear that operating the floating LNG terminal could do serious damage to the environment, such as when chlorine is used to wash facilities and is then piped into coastal waters. “For us, that is the height of ignorance,” said Constantin Zerger of Environmental Action Germany (DUH). German LNG accelerator law under fire by environmental NGOs The German government, rushing to reduce its reliance on Russian gas, is about to enact a law that will accelerate the construction of liquified natural gas infrastructure. Germany will then be able to import LNG from anywhere, causing concern among environmental NGOs about extending its dependence on fossil fuels even longer.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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