08 May 2024, 12:34
Benjamin Wehrmann

Northern German state announces end of oil extraction in Wadden Sea by 2041

Clean Energy Wire

Northern German state Schleswig-Holstein will end the extraction of oil in the marine national park Wadden Sea by 2041, the state’s environment ministry has said. The license for operating the drilling platform Mittelplate will expire in that year and no new ones be issued, which prompted operator Wintershall Dea to withdraw its pending applications. “With this agreement, we ring in the definitive end of the fossil age also in the Wadden Sea,” said Schleswig-Holstein’s environment minister, Tobias Goldschmidt. Deconstruction of the platform is scheduled to start in the 2030s, the ministry added. “Despite high safety standards, the drilling platform Mittelplate already resembled an alien body in this extremely sensitive environment,” minister Goldschmidt said. The Wadden Sea that straddles the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark was listed as a natural heritage area in 2009 by UNESCO under the premise that oil extraction and exploration areas are excluded as enclaves. However, Wintershall Dea in the past years had made efforts to extend its operations in the area, which the responsible environment ministry rejected. The UNESCO committee, meanwhile, had voiced concerns whether the Wadden Sea’s status can be maintained if fossil fuel extraction was expanded. As part of the deal between the fossil fuel company and the state, the minimum levy for oil extraction will be reduced from 21 to 15 percent of revenues, the ministry said. The national minimum is 10 percent, which is why Wintershall Dea had litigated against the higher rate in Schleswig-Holstein. “With this agreement, we achieved a solution outside of court,” minister Goldschmidt said.

NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) welcomed the plans to end oil extraction in the national park and called on the company to end its other operations in the area already before the deadline year. DUH had taken steps to litigate any extension of operations before the deal was struck between Wintershall Dea and the state government. “Extraction in the middle of the natural heritage area Wadden Sea has been a scandal for decades because it puts this unique environment in danger,” NGO head Sascha Müller-Kraenner said. “We call on the oil and gas company to end existing extraction projects well before 2035,” he added. DUH said the step would give a boost to efforts for ending fossil fuel extraction across Germany. “Oil and gas projects have no future,” said DUH energy expert Constantin Zerger. “While Schleswig-Holstein’s environment ministry has recognised this, Lower Saxony still has to see the writing on the wall,” Zerger argued. DUH has also litigated against gas extraction in the neighbouring coastal state, achieving a ban by courts in the Netherlands. “The Lower Saxony state government now must do the same,” Zerger said.

Germany covered just 6 percent of its natural gas and 2 percent of oil demand with domestic supplies in 2023 as production continues to sink, according to an indsustry report. In 2022, the European Union imported 62.5 percent of the energy it consumed – the highest level of dependency since at least 1990 – while its own production and stock changes satisfied only 37.5 percent of its needs. Germany’s energy import dependency was still higher at 68.6 percent – an increase compared to the previous year’s 63.4 percent.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
« previous news next news »


Sven Egenter

Researching a story? Drop CLEW a line or give us a call for background material and contacts.

Get support

+49 30 62858 497

Journalism for the energy transition

Get our Newsletter
Join our Network
Find an interviewee