New gas extraction plans near German North Sea national park gain traction
Plans for starting new natural gas extraction off Germany’s North Sea coast are making progress despite protests by local residents and environmental groups, business newspaper WirtschaftsWoche reports. The economy minister of the state of Lower Saxony, Bernd Althusmann from the conservative CDU, is pushing for a rapid decision in light of the energy supply crisis resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Optimistically, we can expect to have gas flowing by 2024, perhaps 2025,” Althusmann said about the N05-A gas field project. The planned contract with Dutch drilling company One-Dyas would include an offshore platform in Dutch waters, some 500 metres behind the German sea border and about 20 kilometres off the island of Borkum. The minister said this would make sure drilling does not take place in the German Wadden Sea national park. Lower Saxony’s parliament in 2021 had ruled out offshore gas extraction and the state’s government had promised an end to exploration of new reserves. Althusmann said both decisions would have to be reviewed, given the possible energy shortages due to the economic sanctions on Russia. “We must issue our own licences, since we cannot expect the Netherlands to supply us with gas while at the same time prohibiting extraction at home,” he argued.
The Netherlands is already a major gas supplier for Germany but the Dutch government has reduced extraction volumes in recent years due to dwindling reserves and increasing risks of local earthquakes due to cavities left after gas extraction. Since the beginning of the energy prices crisis in 2021, the Netherlands increased its exports again to supply struggling customers in neighbouring countries. The gas field N05-A off Borkum is partly located in German waters and contains an estimated 60 billion cubic metres of the fossil fuel.