In an emergency everything went very quickly. The expansion of the first LNG terminals in Germany has been completed. What is the current status of the projects, who will supply liquid gas and why the Federal Republic is dependent on the USA.

It is amazing how quickly the so urgently needed floating LNG terminals are being built on the coast of Germany. Experts even speak of an “unprecedented speed”. The infrastructure for a floating LNG terminal was only completed in Wilhelmshaven on Tuesday after a construction period of 194 days. Commissioning could therefore take place this year. The only question is: Who then fills the tanks?

The US, Russia, China, Iran and Qatar are the top five natural gas producers in the world. When Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) curtsied to Qatar’s Trade Minister Al Thani in the spring, he was hoping for a lot of liquefied natural gas from the desert state and thus short-term help. At the same time, terminal construction was in full swing in Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel, Stade and Lubmin. The minister made sure of this against massive resistance from his own party with the LNG Acceleration Act.

The master builders are now also looking at the project in Lubmin with hope. “All the requirements will be met so that the terminal can still go into operation in 2022,” according to Deutsche Regas, the operator of the terminal. A total of seven floating LNG terminals could be connected to the gas grid by the end of 2023. Three stationary plants are to follow in three to four years.

The floating LNG terminal, operated by Deutsche Regas, is scheduled to go into operation in December 2022. The annual capacity should be 4.5 billion cubic meters and can be increased to 6.5 billion cubic meters from 2024. The natural gas is fed from the terminal into the German long-distance gas pipeline network, the Eugal Pipeline, which is 450 meters away.

The floating LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, operated by the electricity producer Uniper, is scheduled to open on December 20 and will have an annual capacity of 7.5 billion cubic meters. The facility is expected to be fully utilized by March 2024. The gas will then be fed into the German Netra gas transport network near Etzel via a gas pipeline that is still to be built and is about 30 kilometers long.

The start of the floating terminal in Brunsbüttel operated by RWE is also scheduled for the end of 2022. The annual capacity should total five billion cubic meters. Full capacity utilization of the system is planned by March 2024. To connect the terminal, a three-kilometer connection line is planned by the end of the year. Construction started in October. Added to this is the construction of a 55-kilometer line from Brunsbüttel to Hetlingen/Stade on the long-distance network. Construction will start in November 2022. Completion is scheduled for December 2023.

The floating LNG terminal operated by Hanseatic Energy Hub is scheduled to start up at the end of 2023 and will be operated for three years until the stationary terminal goes into operation in 2026. The annual capacity is said to be over 5 billion cubic meters. The project will be connected to the Stade industrial park via a two-kilometer line. A 90-kilometer route to the district of Verden is also planned by 2026 in order to connect the terminal to the long-distance network.

Lubmin 2 is also operated by Deutsche Regas and is scheduled to start operating in December 2023 with an annual capacity of 7 billion cubic meters.

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Launch for Lubmin 3, operated by RWE and Stena Power, is also scheduled for late 2023. The annual capacity is said to be over 5 million cubic meters.

Tree Energy Solutions (TES), Eon and Engie operate Wilhelmshaven 2. Commissioning is planned for the end of 2023, with an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic meters.

If all seven LNG terminals are connected to the gas grid by the end of 2023, they should have a combined annual capacity of more than 30 billion cubic meters. Nord Stream 1 delivered 60 million cubic meters of gas to Germany in 2021. Consumption in the Federal Republic: 90 million cubic meters. The terminals can therefore only intercept part of the missing deliveries from Russia.

“The LNG Acceleration Act provides for a whole range of helpful procedural simplifications for the approval process for LNG projects,” says Christiane Kappes, lawyer and partner at CMS Hasche Sigle to the “Handelsblatt”. The rapid implementation of the projects is challenging. “In view of the enormous commitment of everyone involved, however, we are optimistic that the particularly urgent projects and the infrastructure measures required for them can be planned and approved at an unprecedented speed,” says Kappes.

The fact that the rapid construction progress at the gas terminals is also rewarded with natural gas deliveries from Qatar is and remains a fallacy for the time being. Since the war in Ukraine, the emirate, which will host the 2022 World Cup in the coming days, has been making a lot of money from the sale of liquid gas. The desert state is not dependent on short-term purchases from Germany.

On the contrary: Qatar wants long-term income and aims to create long-term dependencies in economic negotiations. This means that liquefied natural gas will only be available from the emirate if the purchasing states commit to buying natural gas over a period of 20 years. This is reported by the business portal “Bloomberg”. In addition, Qatar Germany wants to ban the resale of LNG or even the cancellation of deliveries. A deal that Habeck did not want to tackle: “The Qataris have decided not to make a good offer,” said the Minister of Economic Affairs.

However, the rapid construction of the terminals is costing the federal government a lot of money. Mathias Brüggmann, author and correspondent, emphasized in an interview with FOCUS online that Qatar wanted to build liquid gas terminals in Germany a few years ago. “It never happened because of German disinterest at the time. So we could have had the hectic expansion of the infrastructure that the federal government is now pushing faster and cheaper.”

Brüggemann, who has been traveling the Middle East as a journalist for decades and recently published a book on Qatar, also advocates the conclusion of supply contracts with Qatar quickly. “The country has so far made agreements with Asian countries for 25 or 30 years. The federal government wants to phase out fossil fuels faster and not commit as long. At the same time, however, a supplier also needs certainty so that his investments are worthwhile,” he says, defending the emirate’s approach. There has to be a compromise here. Because: “We desperately need the gas for this and the next winter.”

The stationary LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven is scheduled to open in 2025. The operator and owner is the hydrogen company Tree Energy Solutions. The project has an annual capacity of 16 to 20 billion cubic meters.

The terminal in Stade is expected to go into operation in 2026. The operator and owner Hanseatic Energy Hub (HEH) is planning an annual capacity of around 13 billion cubic meters.

Brunsbüttel, operated by Gasunie, is also scheduled to start up in 2026. Gasunie owns 40 percent, RWE ten percent and KfW 50 percent. The terminal’s annual capacity is said to be 8 billion cubic meters.

The fact that tankers with liquid gas from Qatar will not call at the German coast is a problem. In the coming years, the Federal Republic will be dependent on additional LNG supplies. And the expansion of renewable energies has not yet been sufficiently advanced.

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A dilemma that drives Germany further into an energy dependency on the USA. Here, too, the contracts are long-term. As “Bloomberg” reports, these are more flexible. The resale of liquefied natural gas to third countries is permitted here and there is also the option of canceling individual deliveries for a fee.