Why the LNG terminal off Rügen is so controversial – politics

An import terminal for liquefied natural gas is to be built directly in front of the island of Rügen. However, the project is controversial. Islanders, the state government and experts have criticized the plans. For Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), on the other hand, the location plays an important role in energy supply. The most important questions and answers about the project at a glance:

What exactly is planned before Rügen?

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG for short, is to be converted back into natural gas. It is planned that two special ships will dock at an industrial port. These are regasification vessels. One of the two that Neptuneis currently located in the port of Lubmin, a good 40 kilometers away as the crow flies, off the coast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and, together with the second ship, the Transgas Power, move. A new pipeline to Lubmin is also planned to feed the gas into the long-distance pipelines there. The problem: The pipeline is to be built through the ecologically sensitive Greifswalder Bodden.

The company Deutsche Regas operates the Rügen project on behalf of the federal government. Overall, Regas wants to ensure a total capacity of 13.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. 200 million euros are to be invested.

The operators are controversial, they were not previously active in the gas business. The city of Binz on Rügen also has doubts as to whether the financing of the LNG terminals is the right thing to do. She raises the accusation of dubious financing and asks the federal financial controllers to examine Deutsche Regas. The company rejects the allegations and speaks of “unfounded” claims.

Where exactly is the location?

The floating LNG terminal with two platforms is planned in the Mukran industrial port near Sassnitz. Only a few kilometers away is Binz, the largest seaside resort on the island. At the beginning of July, the Bundestag and Bundesrat decided to include the port of Mukran as a location for a liquefied natural gas terminal in the corresponding LNG Acceleration Act. It should enable faster approvals.

At the Mukran site, “a feasibility for the import of LNG” is emerging, according to the law. In addition, the location could “perspectively be further developed for use of the port infrastructure and line with hydrogen and its derivatives”.

Why is LNG so important for the energy supply from the point of view of the federal government?

The Federal Chancellor has classified the location in front of Rügen as essential for security of supply in the coming winter. According to Economics Minister Habeck, floating liquefied natural gas terminals offer the opportunity to promote independence from Russian pipeline gas.

There is currently a stable gas supply situation, the gas storage facilities are already more than 80 percent full, Habeck said in the Bundestag before the summer break in early July. “As of today, we’re getting through the winter very well.” However, one should not rely on everything always going well, according to the minister. But: So far there is no evidence that the location in front of Rügen is necessary.

What criticism is there of the project before Rügen?

Islanders are fighting back against the terminal, fearing catastrophic effects on the environment and seeing tourism on Rügen impaired. You are not alone in your criticism. Jörg-Andreas Krüger, President of the Nabu Nature Conservation Union, says: “The infrastructure cements the use of the climate-damaging raw material for decades.” In all likelihood, the planned LNG infrastructure on Rügen is unnecessary for securing the energy supply.

The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) and the German Environmental Aid (DUH) make similar statements. According to the German Environmental Aid, the project threatened “profound and irreparable effects” on the environment above and below the water. DUH Federal Managing Director Sascha Müller-Kraenner criticizes: In the overall view, the terminal plans are “a catastrophe for marine areas that are particularly worthy of protection, the preservation of biodiversity and our climate”.

The state government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is also opposed to the plans. According to Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD), her government would have been ready for an offshore LNG site, i.e. for a project on the open sea. “Even then there would have been interventions, but it would have been more accepted,” says Schwesig.

What does the LNG infrastructure in Germany currently look like?

So far, three LNG terminals are in operation: in Lubmin, Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel. The latter two are state projects, Lubmin is currently the only purely private one – with Mukran, Deutsche Regas will then operate two private projects.

The plant in Wilhelmshaven was the first to deliver LNG to Germany in December 2022. Figures from the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Network Agency also show that by far the most liquefied natural gas has been fed in via Wilhelmshaven.

Overall, Germany imported around 33.8 terawatt hours of LNG in the first half of 2023. Compared to the total German gas import of 526 terawatt hours in this period, however, this only accounts for around six percent. Apart from the project on Rügen, further terminals are planned. For example, gas should also arrive in Stade in Lower Saxony from next winter.

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