The Fracking & LNG Ghosts of Gas Addicted Germany (Part I of II)

Many folks around the world see Germany as a progressive "green energy“ country and think it has banned fracking. Unfortunately, both statements are untrue.

by Andy Gheorghiu

Part I

Many folks around the world see Germany as a progressive “green energy“ country and think it has banned fracking. Unfortunately, both statements are untrue.

In October 2017, federal environment ministry calculations showed that – without further action – Germany would miss its 2020 climate target by a wider margin than previously anticipated (a drop in emissions of only 31 – 33 percent instead of 40 percent).

But instead of increasing desperately needed further actions, the current (and former) government watered down the 2020 emission reduction goal. Conservatives (CDU) and Socialdemocrats (SPD) now want to close the current gap “as much as possible” and reach the target “as soon as possible”.

However, it is simply beyond belief that this is anythiing but a spineless promise particularly if we take a closer look at Germany’s gas consumption.

“Gassy” Germany Beats “Green” Germany

 Despite its “green” image, Germany remains the biggest gas consumer in Europe. With almost 92 billion cubic metres (bcm) of consumption in 2017, fossil gas accounted for 24 percent in Germany’s primary energy consumption.

Since Germany is a member state in all gas corridors considered by the EU Commission within the process of the so-called Projects of Common Interest, its gas addiction plays a key role in understanding the EU’s push for more – unneeded – gas infrastructure.

Because of its comprehensive cross-border pipeline infrastructure and its central location within Europe, Germany has become the main gas transit hub in Europe, with significant amounts of gas from Russia and Norway transiting the country for delivery to other markets: With a gas import capacity of 54 bcm per year from Norway (via three pipelines), 208 bcm per year from Russia (via 3 pipelines: North Stream 1, Yamal and the Ukraine pipeline system), and some 25 bcm per year from the Netherlands (via four main pipelines and interconnection points), and gas storage capacities of 24.6 bcm (via 51 gas storage facilities), Germany can import and store more than three times more gas than it consumes. According to the German Economy Ministry, Germany’s gas storage facilities are the fourth biggest in the world and the biggest in Europe.

With the existing Nord Stream pipeline, Gazprom is able to bring Russian gas directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea, allowing Moscow to bypass European transit countries such as Poland, Belarus, and crisis-hit Ukraine. Germany and Gazprom are however now heavily pushing in favour of the construction of a second pipeline, Nord Stream II, which would double the current Russian gas influx capacity, from 55 to 110 bcm per year.

The project is however extremely controversial and at the source of an intense political debate and strong tensions with Eastern European countries. The EU Commission has strongly criticized the project, saying in an analysis paper that:

Nord Stream 2, seen from a common EU perspective, is a project with neither economic rationale nor political backing. It would cost billions of euros that could be spent in other priority segments of the economy and the energy sector. Its economic rationale ignores EU objectives on energy efficiency (that will also diminish gas demand); renewables (heat sources and biogas); and research and innovation (the potential future technological breakthrough on electricity storage and/or power-to-gas would further slash post-2030 EU gas imports).

But instead of stopping the project or starting a debate about the real need for gas in Germany, the country is additionally investing public money in counter-projects of Nord Stream 2 such as the Southern Gas Corridor. It also welcomes the propopals for the building of the first LNG terminal in Germany, and provides a budget for fracking research projects.

Now, hold on a second, I thought that Germany has banned fracking? Well, it hasn’t really: read more in Part II.