As of: 01/26/2022 4:15 p.m
The levels in the gas storage tanks are falling rapidly. Some experts therefore advocate state gas reserves based on the strategic oil reserve. But there are also alternatives.
The German natural gas storage facilities are empty – more empty than ever at this time of the year. The filling levels of the natural gas storage facilities in Germany are currently around 40 percent. The consulting company Energy Brainpool also blames the unusually low gas flows from Russia. But what if the escalation of the Ukraine conflict resulted in a total failure of Russian gas supplies?
Petroleum needs covered for 90 days
According to many experts, Germany is not prepared for this worst-case scenario. Markus Krebber, head of the energy company RWE, spoke out in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” for a state gas reserve based on the model of the strategic oil reserves.
What many do not know: The German Petroleum Stockpiling Association (EBV) keeps oil reserves to cover Germany’s import needs for a full 90 days. “With these so-called strategic oil reserves, a complete loss of all imports could be compensated for for three months,” says the Federal Ministry of Economics. A comparable strategic gas reserve does not yet exist.
DIW expert Kemfert considers gas reserves to be “very useful”
Claudia Kemfert, head of the Energy, Transport and Environment department at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), supports the idea of state gas reserves. “We have been promoting a state gas reserve for over ten years,” the DIW expert said tagesschau.de. A strategic gas reserve would be “very useful” to allow for an adequate gas supply in times of emergency.
But there are also alternative suggestions as to how Germany could ward off an impending gas bottleneck in the future. “It is absolutely important that Germany diversifies its gas imports more,” says energy expert Sebastian Rausch in an interview tagesschau.de. “I’m thinking in particular of liquid gas,” says the head of the research area Environmental and Resource Economics, Environmental Management at the Leibniz Center for European Economic Research (ZEW).
Germany does not have a liquid gas terminal
LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), i.e. liquefied natural gas from the USA, for example, could alleviate the worst need in this country in a worst-case scenario – Russian gas stop and cold winter. However, the failures of the past could still be Germany’s undoing. “More than ten years ago, Germany would have been better off building a liquid gas terminal than a direct pipeline to Russia,” complains DIW expert Kemfert, looking at the current bottlenecks.
In fact, the Federal Republic does not have its own landing facility for liquid gas tankers. Natural gas importers only have access to LNG ports in other European countries, with ports in Zeebrugge (Belgium) and Rotterdam (Netherlands) being the closest. From there, the gas can then be exported to Germany via the gas network.
Expansion of renewable energies as an alternative
“In the short term, it is therefore unclear what quantities of liquefied gas Germany could import at what prices in order to compensate for possible shortfalls in Russian deliveries,” says economist Rausch.
In addition to greater diversification towards liquid gas, the ZEW expert also sees the expansion of renewable energies as an alternative to state gas storage in the medium to long term. “That would also be an important step towards climate neutrality – away from the bridging technology gas.”
DIW expert Kemfert also advocates a rapid energy transition – with the help of energetic building renovations and the use of renewable energies.
No short-term solution
The fact is: Whether it’s the expansion of green electricity, the construction of an LNG terminal or the establishment of a state gas reserve – none of these ideas should initially protect Germany from empty gas storage facilities in the event of a Russian delivery stop in the coming weeks. However, there would be long-term lessons that the federal government could learn from the energy crisis.