NewsGas crisis in Germany: are LNG terminals the solution?

Gas crisis in Germany: are LNG terminals the solution?

Created: 7/23/2022, 7:37 p.m

LNG-Tankschiff
The freighter has liquefied natural gas (LNG) on board. © Lex Van Lieshout/ANP/dpa

In the course of the gas dependency between Germany and Russia, “LNG” is often suggested as a solution. But the liquid gas is heavily criticized by environmentalists.

Berlin – The abbreviation LNG stands for “Liquefied Natural Gas” and is already seen by many experts as the ideal answer to our gas crisis. The federal government is already working on the construction plans for port facilities where liquid gas will be unloaded. But does the liquid gas live up to its early praise?

LNG: How is liquid gas produced?

From a temperature of minus 162 degrees Celsius, gas is converted into a liquid state. At least ten percent of the calorific value of the liquid gas is used for cooling. It can then be transported in special ships and returned to its gaseous state. This consumes energy again and special terminals are required – terminals that we do not have in Germany to date.

As far as the ecological balance is concerned, the origin of the gas is decisive. According to Christian Böttcher from the Federal Environment Agency, the LNG from Qatar is very good because it is obtained without fracking. When gas is extracted through fracking – as is common in the USA, for example – large amounts of CO₂ are emitted. In the United States, CO₂ emissions from gas are therefore around 60 percent higher than from Russian natural gas or liquid gas from Qatar.

Liquid gas: when will it flow to Germany?

According to Deutschlandfunk, the federal government intends to spend up to three billion euros on floating LNG terminals within the next ten years. A total of four terminals are currently being planned. Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) therefore traveled to Wilhelmshaven in Lower Saxony in May. A floating LNG import terminal, which is scheduled to go into operation at the beginning of 2023, is to be built there. The same applies to a terminal in Brunsbüttel in Schlsweig-Holstein.

By the end of 2023, liquid gas should reach two more locations in Germany: near Lubmin in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Stade in Lower Saxony. They too will initially be floating LNG terminals. Stationary terminals are also being planned, but it will be years before they are ready for operation.

Independence from Russia: how many LNG terminals are needed in Germany?

In May 2022, the share of Russian gas imports was still 35 percent. With annual consumption in Germany of around 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas, this corresponds to around 30 billion cubic meters of Russian gas. According to projections, the capacity of the floating import terminals is around nine to ten billion cubic meters per year. The Federal Republic could therefore outweigh the Russian deliveries with three such terminals.

LNG in Germany: Terminals criticized by environmentalists

Another option would be to rely on the terminals of neighboring countries. The EU already has 30 LNG terminals. According to Deutschlandfunk, these were only 40 percent utilized in March 2022. The German Environmental Protection Aid (DUH) also advocates this. This refers to the assessments of the DIW research institute, which assumes that fixed LNG terminals in Germany “do not make sense because of the long construction times and the medium-term, sharply declining demand for natural gas”.

The DUH also warns against stepping back into a “fossil trap” of not breaking the addiction. “We run the risk of just changing the dealer: instead of consistently focusing on energy saving and renewables, we slide into the next fossil dependency,” says the DUH energy expert, Constantin Zerger. In particular, the import of fracking gas as LNG must be prevented.

So far, environmental organizations have not been very enthusiastic about the federal government’s LNG plans. At the beginning of April, the DUH called on Economics Minister Robert Habeck to “finally substantiate the alleged need for the terminals with specific figures.” That has not happened so far. Instead, Habeck traveled to Qatar to negotiate an energy partnership there. (aa)

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