German Chancellor Scholz opens new North Sea gas terminal

First shipment of liquefied natural gas arrives at Wilhelmshaven pier

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, centre, visits the LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, after it received its first shipment. AFP
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz officially opened a North Sea gas terminal on Saturday which was hurriedly built to help end the country's reliance on Russian supplies.

The first shipment of 165,000 cubic metres of liquefied natural gas arrived in Wilhelmshaven on Thursday.

The new terminal is the first in Germany that can handle LNG imports.

It enables the country to buy on the world market and replace some of the gas Russia stopped sending by pipeline, easing Europe's energy crisis.

“Germany and the EU will become a great deal more secure and independent,” Mr Scholz said.

Several LNG terminals are planned, with Wilhelmshaven and two others coming online this winter.

The National was in Wilhelmshaven when construction was declared complete in just 194 days.

The breakneck speed has been hailed as a model for other German energy projects.

“It shows what Germany can achieve in just a few months when we need to,” said Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who accompanied Mr Scholz on the visit.

The vessel Hoegh Esperanza will now stay put in Wilhelmshaven and act as a floating import terminal to handle other shipments. AFP

Not everyone is happy to see the terminal opened, with concerns raised about wildlife and the import of fossil fuels.

One charity is threatening legal action over a rush for gas, which it says will “lock in” excessive fossil fuel consumption for years.

“The climate and energy crises must not be played off against each other,” said Sascha Mueller-Kraenner, the head of Environmental Action Germany.

Asked whether his younger self would have opposed the terminal, the Green party’s Mr Habeck said he would have realised the urgency of the situation.

“The young Robert Habeck would have recognised that half of our gas is missing,” he told ARD television.

“This is an interim step, but everything will be built in such a way that we can meet our climate goals for 2045.”

Mr Scholz has said that LNG terminals could one day be used to import green hydrogen, although there are doubts about the viability of this.


Energy company Uniper, which is operating the Wilhelmshaven terminal, has plans for a hydrogen hub in the port.

The first LNG shipment arrived on board the vessel Hoegh Esperanza, which was loaded with gas in Spain.

The vessel will now stay put in Wilhelmshaven and act as a floating import terminal to handle other shipments.

Uniper said the terminal could provide about five billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has been dormant for months, had a capacity of 55 billion cubic metres.

The parallel Nord Stream 2 pipeline was meant to double that capacity but Mr Scholz blocked the project in February.

Proposals for a German LNG terminal had never previously got off the ground but were fast-tracked after the invasion of Ukraine.

Another terminal, in Brunsbuettel, is expected to start receiving gas from Qatar in 2026 under a deal announced last month.

Germany is also urging people to cut back gas consumption by 20 per cent to prevent power cuts this winter.

Updated: December 17, 2022, 1:34 PM