Is the LNG terminal off Rügen needed?

Is the LNG terminal off Rügen needed?

LNG tanker on the coast of Norway. © Gert-Jan van Vliet/ iStock

For months, demonstrators on Rügen have been fighting against a planned LNG terminal that is to be built on the coast of the Baltic Sea island. They are concerned about the environment, climate and tourism and also question whether the floating terminal is even necessary for Germany’s secure energy supply. No, a new study now answers quite clearly. According to her, Germany can get through the next winter without the liquid gas terminal on Rügen and should therefore invest in projects that are more compatible with the energy transition.

The start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has enormous effects on our energy supply. Previously, Russia was the largest natural gas supplier for Germany and many other EU countries. The sanctions imposed by Western countries and the halt to Russian natural gas deliveries have forced Germany to develop other energy sources, including deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by ship. It is created by cooling natural gas to 161 to 164 degrees Celsius, thereby reducing its volume.

Rügen terminal put to the test

However, in order to be able to use the liquid natural gas to produce electricity and heat, it must be brought from the ship to shore and returned to its original state. This so-called regasification takes place in special terminals that Germany has already built in Wilhelmshaven and Lubmin. Another one was actually supposed to be built soon off the coast of Rügen, but demonstrators have been resisting the construction for months. Among other things, they worry that tourists will no longer want to visit the island and that the terminal will pollute the surrounding Baltic Sea and the air. Some are also of the opinion that the Russian gas shortage has long since been compensated for and that the terminal is therefore no longer necessary.

A new study commissioned by German Environmental Aid (DUH) has now addressed the questions about the climate damage and benefits of the terminal. To make their assessment, Fabian Präger from the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin and his colleagues first checked whether the project in the Rügen port of Mukran was compatible with the United Nations’ sustainability goals. The researchers then examined whether the additional energy capacity that the LNG terminal would create could significantly improve security of supply in the coming winter and counteract network bottlenecks.

Terminal is unnecessary and harmful to the climate

The result: “The Mukran location is not necessary from an energy perspective to avoid a gas shortage in the winter of 2023/24,” is the conclusion of Präger and his team. Although such a shortage is not to be expected for the coming winter anyway, even if it were to occur, the researchers believe that we would still have sufficient storage capacity and, in an emergency, the possibility of adjusting the use of existing import capacities. In case of doubt, it is also possible to simply “reverse the polarity” of existing gas pipes so that they no longer deliver gas from east to west, but from west to east, thus supplying all locations sufficiently. In the current discussion, East Germany and Eastern Europe are often unjustified as being the victims of a possible bottleneck, the scientists emphasize.

The study authors also recommend against building the Rügen terminal from a sustainability perspective: “The planned LNG infrastructure in the port of Mukran contradicts the sustainability goals and, among other things, endangers the habitat of the Baltic Sea, causes additional climate-damaging emissions and hinders sustainable regional economic development. “ Co-author Christian von Hirschhausen from the TU Berlin therefore draws the following conclusion: “The federal government should stop the expansion of the LNG infrastructure and instead use the available financial resources for energy transition-compatible projects.”

Source: Technical University of Berlin, German Environmental Aid, German Institute for Economic Research; Study for download

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