The first of four planned liquid natural gas import terminals in Germany, which never had such infrastructure, now has gained expedited construction approval as the country accelerates its effort to separate from Russian energy supply networks because of the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

Federally-selected utility operator Uniper has not released details on site contractors or cost for the terminal at the northern port of Wilhelmshaven, but several reports describe it as an estimated $69-million facility.

Set to operate late this year or in early 2023, the terminal will handle 7.5 billion cu meters of natural gas per year, about 8.5% of Germany’s current demand. Permits will allow construction of both land and sea infrastructure at the site to support floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) operations.

Other LNG import facilities are planned for the German cities of Stade, Brunsbüttel and possibly Hamburg.

Uniper has already chartered two FSRUs, each able to store 174,000 cu m of LNG, convert it to a gaseous state onboard and feed it into the grid. They are set to begin service in early 2023. German utility giant RWE also had chartered two FSRUs, each able to receive up to 170,000 cu m.

The permits also allow for construction of a new 30-km high-pressure pipeline linked to the existing natural gas distribution network, to be built by transmission system operator Open Grid Europe. 

Germany has held talks with Qatar and Canada on potential LNG supply deals, while utilities EnBW and RWE are eyeing long-term deliveries of U.S. gas.


New Gas Infrastructure

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Germany was the only major European Union country without its own import and regasification infrastructure. According to reports, the regional government planned, approved and will build the Wilhelmshaven terminal at eight times the normal speed. 

An unusual wrinkle in site engineering and construction could be the existence of buried World War II-era ordnance in the North Sea region that would require remediation, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Germany has made moves to cut its reliance on Russia-supplied gas energy, but there is still a heightened sense of crisis looming over government officials and industry. Utility firms are passing on high gas prices to customers and the government has made public the possibility of emergency gas and hot water rationing.

The country also could restart coal-fired power plants taken offline in earlier moves to cut carbon emissions. 

Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank, the EU lending arm, announced launch in early July of an estimated $104-billion capitalization and investment fund to bolster Ukrainian infrastructure now and also fund longer term reconstruction. The fund would seek to an initial $20.1 billion in EU country contributions and EU-budgeted grants, loans and guarantees, according to Reuters.  

Ukraine's foreign office estimates eventual reconstruction costs could be al least $750 billion.