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A view of the Wadden Sea, Source: Ralf Roletschek on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Germany will start exploiting its natural gas deposits

Germany will start exploiting its natural gas deposits

The biggest German gas deposit, located in the North Sea, will contribute to decoupling the country from Russian natural gas imports

Yesterday, the Economics Minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony in Germany, Bernd Althusmann, presented the plan for the exploration and extraction of natural gas from Germany’s small deposits located in the North Sea. The area is known as the Wadden Sea and is home to small islands and bogs, forming a unique ecosystem.

Despite the fossil fuel project, Lower Saxony's Minister for the Environment, Olaf Lies, explained that the project will not be able to circumvent environmental regulations. At the same time, it is set to start producing gas as soon as 2024.

Germany has very few natural gas reserves. So few, in fact, that up to this point it has not had many reasons to exploit the deposits. However, as the war in Ukraine ramps up and with Russia cutting off Poland and Bulgaria from natural gas so abruptly on 27 April, Europe’s biggest economy needs to find ways to feed its energy dependency quickly.

In fact, many projects and government guidelines suggest that the country should try and reach complete independence from Russian natural gas imports as soon as 2024/2025. This will not be easy though, as the German Economy Minister Habecke explained at the end of March, decoupling from Russia would take a massive joint effort – federal, state, local, private companies and households all need to work together.

And this is where Lower Saxony plays a crucial role, as it is one of the few German states with access to the North Sea and along with Bremen and Hamburg, it could become the epicentre of Germany’s future diversified energy mix, especially when it comes to hydrogen and LNG.

The North Sea – a drop in the ocean

According to a statement by the Federal State of Lower Saxony, the North Sea is home to almost all of Germany’s natural gas deposits – estimated at 42.8 billion cubic metres out of a total of 43 billion. While at first glance, this might sound like a lot, Germany consumes 90 billion cubic metres, with 55 of those coming from Russia.

Nevertheless, according to Minister Bernd Althusmann, every molecule counts and the North Sea deposit can make its contribution to Germany’s transition towards renewable energy. He explained that gas production can start as soon as 2024 with an estimated yield of 2 to 4 billion cubic metres of gas.  Furthermore, he underlined that the exploitation of the deposit will not come at the expense of the environment in Lower Saxony, as climate protection guidelines are being implemented.

Minister Olaf Lies expressed a similar opinion, in a press release: “Regardless of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, we still need fossil gas as a bridge on the way to a climate-neutral energy supply. However, we have clear expectations here: the company exploiting the deposit must unequivocally commit itself to protect the environment and nature and in particular the Wadden Sea. In addition, we will develop a secure system with which we will finance targeted measures and projects for our Wadden Sea and for our islands. There is no way around it.”

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