Less than 200 days. To be precise, 194. That was enough for Germany to quickly equip itself with its first terminal to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) without going through other European ports. And thus begin to reduce the dangerous dependence on Russian gas pipelines. The plant was inaugurated in Wilhelmshaven, in Lower Saxony, and will already receive its first shipment of LNG between December and January.
The project was launched by Olaf Scholz’s government a few weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sure of its supplies from Russia thanks to the close relationship with Gazprom and the expected doubling (later skipped) of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, Berlin has never thought of equipping itself with terminals to receive LNG, unlike its neighbors such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The war prompted the German executive to run for cover: the plan envisages the construction of 5 infrastructures which serve to accommodate floating terminals, i.e. ships which can load and regasify liquefied gas directly on board.
The first ship of this type will be the Hoegh Esperanza, flying the Norwegian flag: over 280 meters long and 46 meters wide, this LNG tanker was built in 2018 and can regasify a minimum of 5 billion cubic meters of LNG per year, with a maximum capacity of 7.5 billion cubic meters. It will inject gas into the German gas grid through a gas pipeline with an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters, writes Euractiv.
Three more floating terminals are currently in the planning stages and under construction: at Stade, Brunsbuttel and Lubmin. In mid-October, the federal government also signed a contract for a fifth LNG terminal, also to be built in Wilhelmshaven. Thanks to these floating terminals, all of which should be ready by the end of 2023, the German government hopes to replace 50 to 60% of Russian gas with LNG as early as 2023.
“Germany today looks to Wilhelmshaven. The new LNG terminal is a big step towards a secure energy supply,” said Olaf Lies, Economy Minister of the German state of Lower Saxony. Less enthusiastic is his government colleague, Christian Meyer, a member of the Greens, who fears for the ecological implications of these infrastructures The plan for LNG was implemented amid strong criticism from environmental groups and with an emergency procedure which effectively excluded the involvement of civil society and a real environmental impact assessment.
According to the environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the infrastructure manager, Uniper, should preiodically clean the plant using chlorine, which will then be discharged into the sea in quantities “ten times higher” than the permitted limits. “A creeping chemical accident looms at Wilhelmshaven and other LNG sites,” the NGO says. He charges that embarrass the government in Berlin, where the Greens are part of Scholz’s coalition.