German winter gas shortage possible: Bnetza

  • : Natural gas
  • 22/09/28

The unpredictability of the weather has clouded visibility of near-term supply needs, write Oscar Mahony and Samuel Good

A gas shortage in Germany this winter is possible, and it is impossible to predict until it is inevitable, according to German grid regulator Bnetza's president, Klaus Mueller.

The weather — and, by extension, heating demand — and the situation in neighbouring countries are the decisive criteria in a gas shortage, and all three are unpredictable, Mueller says.

The country's high storage stocks will buy more time to prepare for a shortage, but Bnetza is unable to foresee more than one and a half weeks ahead in terms of gas consumption, because of the impact of the weather on heating demand.

German inventories were 223.8TWh as of the morning of 26 September, which equates to 91.4pc of capacity. The country aims to reach 95pc of capacity at each individual storage site by 1 November, and while Germany looks likely to reach an overall fill level of 95pc, some sites — notably Rehden — may miss the target. If there are shortages, Mueller expects them to come in waves and is unable to say where the risk of shortages is greatest, as "cold periods can occur everywhere in Germany".

Reducing demand remains crucial, Mueller says, and industry is "contributing what we asked of them". There is a lack of visibility on demand from private households as the heating season is only just beginning, he says. He provided no further information on which order industrial sectors would be required to shut down in the event of a shortage, but says Bnetza will protect the manufacturers of essential supplies.

Mueller had expected more coal-fired power plants to be returned to the grid more quickly and says that the low water level on the river Rhine that is hampering barging has developed into an "aggravating factor".

Shoring up defenses

Germany continues to pivot towards alternative sources for gas supply in preparation for the winter and beyond.

The first LNG cargo at Germany's planned Brunsbuttel import terminal will be delivered by the UAE's Adnoc in late December, project developer RWE says, with the two firms eyeing further deliveries to Germany. The 137,000m³ cargo will probably be sourced from Adnoc's 5.8mn t/yr Das Island liquefaction facility.

Germany's planned Brunsbuttel terminal — Elbehafen LNG — is one of two facilities being developed by RWE. Elbehafen and the other terminal, which is being built at Wilhelmshaven, are both set to begin operations this winter.

RWE and Adnoc have also signed a preliminary agreement for term LNG supply to Germany that would start from 2023, RWE says.

Meanwhile, reverse flow capacity of 100 GWh/d will be available at the Obergailbach interconnection point between France and Germany from the week of 10 October. This capacity will be a daily product that can be reserved overnight.

At present, supply can be sent only from Germany into France at the point. To allow physical reverse flows, a new compression station and facilities to deodorise the gas are needed. Gas is odourised before entry to the transport network in France, but it is not odourised on the German transport network. Bnetza recently launched a consultation to determine the costs resulting from importing odourised gas, among other things.

Belgium intends to strengthen its gas transit capacity to Germany, Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo told German chancellor Olaf Scholz on 15 September. Belgian exports to Germany hit all-time highs this summer, climbing to 823 GWh/d in July-August.

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