Germany wants to become independent of Russian energy. In addition to Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel, there is another location candidate that has received little attention – with a large electricity guzzler in the vicinity.
When Olaf Scholz announced the construction of two LNG terminals for the import of liquefied natural gas after the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the Chancellor named two locations: Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven should make Germany less dependent on gas from Russia.
But in the shadow of these projects, an LNG terminal is also being prepared in Stade, Lower Saxony – on the doorstep of one of the country’s largest power guzzlers.
The US chemical company Dow has an important location in Stade. According to the company, around three million tons of chemicals are produced there every year. That costs energy. Much energy. According to Dow, it used around 4.5 terawatt hours of electricity in Stade in 2020. This corresponds to 0.8 percent of German electricity consumption – or the annual consumption of around one million private households.
Regional Energy Industry
It is true that Dow itself does not purchase any gas directly from Russia. But Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil senses a locational advantage for his state in the combination of coast and industry. After all, the construction of the new LNG infrastructure is also an economic factor. Representatives of the regional energy industry are already talking about Lower Saxony as the new Ruhr area, only in clean form.
“Theoretically, we could have so many terminals operational in Lower Saxony by 2025 that 100 percent of the Russian gas in Germany can be offset,” said SPD politician Weil, putting his country in the right light a few weeks ago. With Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony already has a terminal firmly on the hook. But Weil thinks it shouldn’t stop there. “Stade has the great advantage that it is almost directly connected to the general grid and one percent of the German electricity consumption at Dow Chemical is directly behind the dyke.”
Behind the dike, that means: at a seaport around 50 kilometers west of Hamburg and in the middle of an industrial park, where 800 other people work in the chemical industry in addition to the 1,100 employees of Dow. An industry where Dow’s energy-intensive manufacturing is no exception. According to the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI), more than 10 percent of German electricity consumption is attributable to chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and gas consumption is even 15 percent.
support from Berlin
And where a lot is consumed, a lot has to arrive, so the reasoning of the Lower Saxony. A logic that is now also supported in Berlin. In any case, Stade is a suitable location for LNG imports, said Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck recently. “The operators there work consistently and push the project forward enormously. I assume that Stade will also become an LNG location, »said the Green politician after visiting the LNG project in Wilhelmshaven.
First of all, however, the decision had to be made as to where the first two LNG ships, which are scheduled to arrive in December, would dock. “We took the two locations that are furthest ahead. These are Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel at the moment, »said Habeck.
The LNG terminal in Stade is being planned by a private consortium, in which Dow has also been involved since April. The aim of the partners is to cover 15 percent of German gas requirements from 2026 “through LNG and low-carbon energy sources such as bio-LNG and synthetic natural gas”. With a capacity of more than 13 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, the so-called Hanseatic Energy Hub should then contribute to the diversification of Germany’s energy requirements. In other words: Dependence on individual energy sources and countries of origin should decrease.
Stade Terminal as a beacon of hope
The terminal is also a “building block of the energy transition,” said the President of Dow Germany, Katja Wodjereck. “The liquefied gas terminal is planned from the start in such a way that it could expand the capacities for LNG and potentially land other liquefied gases.” Other gases such as hydrogen, which can also be climate-friendly with electricity from renewable sources and is therefore also politically regarded as a beacon of hope for the energy transition.
Dow already describes itself as a “leader in Germany” in the production and use of hydrogen – the company already produces around 50,000 tons of the energy carrier in its electrolysis plants every year. After all, you can adorn yourself with green energy these days, even as a chemical giant that used to be criticized as the manufacturer of the substances napalm and agent orange used in chemical weapons.
However, the LNG terminals are by no means a climate protection project, as even Habeck’s Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection concedes. Because in the next few years it will be mainly liquefied natural gas that comes to Germany via the new terminals – fossil gas, in other words, partly even obtained from the controversial fracking. That should apply to Stade as well as to Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven.