“Gas filling station for Germany”: A new pipeline with potential for conflict

Markus Söder was faster than Robert Habeck. It has been three weeks since the Bavarian Prime Minister visited the port of Lubmin. Together with Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD), he visited the landing station of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline and filmed a boat tour across the Bay of Greifswald. Beautiful pictures, fish sandwiches, press conference. Three weeks later the same program: Habeck and Schwesig with construction site helmets, side by side on the ship, making a statement in the tent.

But unlike Söder, the Federal Minister of Economics brought a message to Lubmin: “The Chancellor is going to the United Arab Emirates next week and will certainly be able to sign some contracts (…) for LNG there.” Habeck does not give details, but he emphasizes his share in the success. Talks have continued since his visit to the Arabian Peninsula in March.

Habeck needs the infrastructure in Lubmin so that the gas from the Saudis can reach Germany at all. Two floating terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) are to be built there and supply the east and south of the republic via the distribution networks. Two entrepreneurs from Potsdam and their company “Deutsche Regas” want to use a shuttle solution to transport LNG across the shallow bay to the port of Lubmin and feed it into the German grid from there on December 1st. 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas should reach Lubmin per year – construction in the port will start this Tuesday.

Such LNG tankers will soon also be cruising off Lubmin.
Such LNG tankers will soon also be cruising off Lubmin.
© REUTERS

An important intermediate step for the Vice Chancellor. If the LNG construction projects succeed in Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven by the turn of the year, the gas supply will be secured. “If everything goes well, thrift in Germany is high and we’re a bit lucky with the weather,” says Habeck, “we have a chance of getting through the winter well.”

Deutsche Umwelthilfe does not rule out lawsuits

However, Habeck is interested in a project this Monday that will not be available until a year later, because even then the situation would still be tense. “The gas storage tanks must also be full for the winter of 2023/24,” says Habeck. With the support of the federal government, the energy companies RWE and Stena are to build another LNG terminal in Lubmin. However, since the port is too small and the heavy LNG tankers cannot drive across the bay, a docking station is to be built on the open sea. “A gas filling station for Germany” will be built there, the Greens politician announced. A pipeline 30 to 40 kilometers long will be built so that the gas can also reach land from the filling station. “It’s an ambitious, ambitious and creative project,” says Habeck.

But it is also a project that has already received criticism. “The question of proportionality arises when another pipeline is laid through the national park for a temporary gas terminal,” says Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Director of German Environmental Aid, the Tagesspiegel. In fact, the ground before Lubmin is already densely built up. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipes are located there, and the power cables from the offshore wind farms in Lubmin also reach land. “I am extremely skeptical as to whether we need this infrastructure,” says Müller-Kraenner and does not rule out legal action. “If the approval documents are available, we will certainly evaluate it legally.”

The private-sector competition from RWE and Stena initially also criticized the plans. The chairman of the supervisory board of “Deutsche Regas”, Stephan Knabe, told the Tagesspiegel weeks ago: “A third pipeline on the bottom of the Bodden through the national park would take several years and would be a serious intervention in the sensitive and protected ecosystem.” also wants to expand the gas business in Lubmin would like to use the unused pipes from Nord Stream 2. This means that significantly more gas could come to Germany in the near future.

Stephan Knabe wants to stir up the gas market.
Stephan Knabe wants to stir up the gas market.
© promo

On Monday, however, Knabe was much more open to the federal government’s plans when asked: “We are continuing to pursue our plan to land LNG via the Nord Stream 2 pipe. Should the construction of another pipeline succeed, that would also be a conceivable option for us. The gas requirement and the Bodden are large enough for two companies.”

It is an obvious idea to use the pipes from Nord Stream 2. You should at least check that.

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Director of the German Environmental Aid

The managing director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe supports this idea. “It is an obvious idea to use the Nord Stream 2 pipes. You should at least check that,” says Müller-Kraenner. Support also comes from the FDP. “Anyone who gives the impression that Nord Stream 2 is a solution for Germany’s gas supply is doing pure Putin propaganda,” says the Liberal spokesman for energy policy, Michael Kruse. Even five pipelines would not change the situation. “It is therefore correct to use the connection point in Lubmin for floating terminals,” Kruse told the Tagesspiegel.

But Habeck rejects this demand. “There are no such considerations,” he said in Lubmin.

The federal government has long feared the reaction from the Kremlin if a small piece of Nord Stream 2 were expropriated. Fear of a complete halt to deliveries via Nord Stream 1 had prompted caution. But gas has not flowed through the pipeline for almost three weeks now – and Habeck no longer expects new deliveries either: “I don’t see any foreseeable scenario in which Nord Stream 2 will play a role in Germany’s energy security.” What about the pipes from Nord Stream 1 and 2 will happen, “no one can say today”.

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