Gas terminal on the Lower Elbe legally questionable (neue-deutschland.de)

Activists from “Fridays for Future” and “Ende Gele” protest in front of the SPD party headquarters against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that is under construction.

Photo: dpa / Bernd von Jutrczenka

Things are bad for the gas import projects in Germany. For the completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has now built a controversial environmental foundation out of the ground. On the other hand, to import liquid natural gas, or LNG for short, three terminals were originally planned in the north – in Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel and Stade.

The power company Uniper stopped the project in Wilhelmshaven at the end of last year. Things are not going very well in Brunsbüttel. The investor has put the commissioning planned for 2022 on hold. The third location in Stade is still a long way from being approved. The aim so far is to put the terminal into operation in 2026. The Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) does not consider the location on the Lower Elbe to be approved. That emerges from a legal opinion submitted by her together with the BUND Lower Saxony on Thursday. The reasons for this are serious safety and climate protection concerns.

In Stade, up to 12 billion cubic meters of gas will once be able to be landed by LNG tanker – which, incidentally, corresponds to almost a quarter of Nord Stream’s capacity. The import of particularly climate-damaging fracking gas from the USA and Canada is likely, even if not explicitly stated in the documents known to date.

Regardless of this, such a large fossil fuel project no longer fits in with the times for DUH managing director Sascha Müller-Kraenner. Up to 21 million tons of CO2 would be released if 12 billion cubic meters of gas were burned, Müller-Kraenner calculated yesterday. “We have to move towards climate neutrality – and we don’t need more, but less fossil fuel production.” The negative effects on the climate and the environment have not been taken into account in the previous planning.

Müller-Kraenner is particularly annoyed that for the first time a federal state is co-owner of a liquefied natural gas project through Niedersachsen Ports GmbH & Co. KG. “The state’s indirect participation in the LNG terminal in Stade must be stopped immediately,” he says. Otherwise, the state government would lose all credibility when it comes to climate protection. In addition, the DUH boss points out that the connection of the LNG terminals to the gas network is not paid for by the investor, but by the gas customers via network levy, a total of 650 million euros.

The “installation” of such a large terminal in the already well-developed infrastructure on the Lower Elbe is also problematic for the environmental associations. Among other things, a further deepening of the river would be necessary for the LNG port and its access. The Elbe is only 460 meters wide at this point, but according to the plan, around 100 super tankers are to dock there annually and also turn around in the Elbe fairway – an unacceptable potential hazard in shipping traffic for the legal expert Cornelia Ziehm.

In the immediate vicinity of the planned terminal there are chemical plants and a storage facility for low and medium level radioactive waste. For Ziehm, this is already an explosive situation that would be exacerbated by the LNG terminal. “The project is unlikely to be compatible with the applicable accident law,” concludes the lawyer. Instead of testing the terminal project for its compatibility with the German climate targets, so far only a test of the microclimate compatibility within a radius of two kilometers is planned.

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