LNG: the port boss doubts the future of liquefied natural gas terminals

The merged ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerpen (Bruges-Antwerp) play a central role in the import of liquefied natural gas to the EU – and to Germany. In order to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas, which is pumped in through pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals must now be set up quickly in Germany as well. The CEO of Belgian ports, Jacques Vandemeieren, is skeptical about the interest of investing in LNG plants, including in Germany.

In Germany, things should now go very quickly, after the groundbreaking for the Wilhelmshaven liquefied natural gas terminal under the supervision of Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens), another LNG terminal must also be built to Brunsbüttel in record time. However, Vandermeiren, the port manager of Belgium’s largest port, Bruges-Antwerp, doubts that these are wise investments: “Why should I build new LNG terminals that will be obsolete in a decade or two? “

The plant in the port of Vandermeiren has been running at full capacity for weeks and with a 15% share of liquefied natural gas it is an important supplier for Germany. Even if the dependence on Russia must be reduced and there is room for another factory, the investment has not yet borne fruit. Unlike the European Commission, Vandermeiren does not share their view that further use for the import of green hydrogen is simply possible. Technically, this cannot be done without additional investments.

Vandermeiren is focusing on expanding the import of green hydrogen. The EU alone cannot produce the required amount of green hydrogen. “At the end of the day, it will be 50% internal production and 50% imports,” Vandermeiren told FAZ. If the required amount of green hydrogen is not available for Europe in the future, the chemical industry risks relocating its production to the Middle East, China or the United States.

To import green hydrogen, which is an important element of the energy transition, from North Africa, Chile or Namibia, for example, you also need the appropriate vessels and that is where the next bottleneck is looming. bottleneck, as is the expansion of the necessary port infrastructure in Europe, says Vandermeiren.

In Germany, the focus is still on building LNG plants in record time – in Brunsbüttel even “Musk’s methods” would be used. According to another FAZ report, Bernd Buchholz (FDP), Minister of Economics of Schleswig-Holstein, wanted the terminal from the start, which is also what the coalition agreement says, and his colleague Daniel Günther (CDU ) had already examined the LNG terminals in Rotterdam in 2017.

The construction would have been fine even without the Ukrainian war, after all the Americans had long been pressuring Berlin to build LNG terminals, according to Günther. Tesla demonstrated this in Grünheide – construction is also possible without a permit – according to Buchholz, according to the FAZ. “We are now training to speed up the planning in Brunsbüttel,” continues Buchholz. You can do half the time and be ready in 2024, like Elon Musk at Grünheide. If you do everything as usual – this presumably means that you comply with the laws and regulations (ed) – you would not have finished before 2027 in Brunsbüttel.

In Brunsbüttel, too, residents are worried – not necessarily because of how Buchholz is planning the construction of the LNG plant. According to the report, the “Climate Alliance Against LNG” sees impending doom in their chosen location. In addition to the former nuclear power plant, a hazardous waste incineration plant and a fertilizer plant, the risk potential in the event of so-called accidental operation is already high, so there is no need to further increase the risk.

Ras Laffan LNG terminal in Qatar. Image: Matthew Smith / CC-BY-2.0

Climate protection is also a concern. Investments in fossil fuel technology are therefore viewed critically. According to a member of the “Climate Alliance against LNG”, “gas is gas” and “that the war in Ukraine suddenly throws all the principles of climate policy overboard” cannot be the case.


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