A milestone for the German energy supply? The new German liquid gas deal with the United Arab Emirates is a rather insignificant addition to a larger agreement. In order to get through the winter without any problems, other suppliers are more important.

When the ink was dry, there was no shortage of superlatives. Sultan Ahmed al-Dschaber, Industry Minister of the United Arab Emirates, spoke of a “groundbreaking new agreement” with the German visitors. The German energy giant RWE described the deal as an “important milestone”. And Chancellor Olaf Scholz “welcomed” the agreement during his state visit: “A whole series” of energy projects have already been advanced with the Emirates.

RWE will buy a total of 137,000 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Emirati oil company Adnoc through the deal announced on Sunday. It is the first delivery that should arrive at the new LNG terminal in Brunsbüttel (Schleswig-Holstein) at the end of the year. But what initially sounds impressive is quickly put into perspective when you look at the numbers. Because for an energy-hungry country like the Federal Republic, 137,000 cubic meters is not very much.

For comparison: Before the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, on February 1 alone, according to the operator, around 1.76 billion kilowatt hours of gas energy flowed through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline ship from the Emirates corresponds to about 0.95 billion kilowatt hours.

The tanker delivery thus covers a little more than half of the daily volume that used to flow through Nord Stream 1. According to calculations, it would take 144 LNG ships with a capacity of 145,000 cubic meters to completely supply Germany with gas in an average winter month.

According to information from RWE and state media in the Emirates, further tanker deliveries should arrive in Brunsbüttel in 2023, according to reports there should be five ships. But the deliveries are not more than a drop in the ocean. They are more of an accessory in relation to the other components of the energy deal with the Emirates, which also includes the supply of diesel and cooperation on hydrogen and wind farms.

The small Gulf state also lacks the necessary capacities to satisfy the German LNG hunger. In 2021, the Emirates produced a total of 7.6 billion cubic meters of gas, the world market leaders Australia and Qatar each came up with 106 billion cubic meters.

The federal government would therefore love to do business with the Qataris, but talks are difficult here. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) concluded an “energy partnership” during a visit in March, but after six months not a single contract has been signed with a German company. “The Qataris have decided not to make a good offer,” said Habeck in the summer.

According to information from the German energy industry, the Gulf state should insist on long-term contracts – but the German companies do not want to commit themselves to that length of time because they regard LNG as a transitional resource. A visit by Chancellor Scholz to Qatar on Sunday also failed to bring about a breakthrough. Talks were still ongoing with the German companies RWE and Uniper, said Qatari Energy Minister Saad Sheriba al-Kaabi on Sunday.

Three other countries will therefore be decisive for the German gas supply: Norway and the Netherlands can compensate for part of the lost Russian supplies with increased production volumes of “conventional” gas. And for LNG, the Federal Republic is not looking to the Middle East, but to the West – to the USA.

Already last winter, a spontaneously dispatched liquid gas fleet from the United States had stabilized the German supply. And in the future, too, the USA will probably be the most important LNG supplier for Germany and Europe. According to a study by the Energy Economics Institute at the University of Cologne (EWI) on behalf of the industry association Zukunft Gas, which was presented on Thursday, the gap in Russian gas supplies can only be filled by importing liquid gas from the USA.

The study analyzed future gas trade between the European Union (EU) and Russia in various scenarios and their impact on global trade relations. “Clear result: The European demand for LNG is increasing significantly,” said the industry association.

Additional pipeline gas can only be obtained to a limited extent from countries such as Norway. The gap in Russian gas supplies must therefore be filled with the help of LNG imports, it said. “LNG deliveries from the USA could take on the largest role on the European market.”

In all scenarios examined, US imports increased significantly compared to 2021. If no gas is traded between Russia and the EU, the study assumes that the USA will account for 39 percent of total EU imports by 2030, provided that sufficient liquefaction plants are built by then. “This would make the EU, along with Asia, one of the most important sales markets for natural gas from the USA.” In the scenario, Norway has a 28 percent supply share.

Additional exports, for example from Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, are not significant for the European market. “However, the additional quantities can help to prevent shortages on the world markets,” says the study. And that is urgently needed: Because of its hunger for energy, Germany is currently buying the gas away from poorer countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

with dpa material