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The measures taken by Germany's gas providers in order to secure supply are based on a broad package of measures. In addition to providing support for domestic producers, these measures include in particular:
the diversification of supply sources and transmission routes
stable relationships with supplier countries
long-term gas supply contracts and
a highly reliable supply infrastructure which includes underground storage facilities
Access to LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals is also increasingly important.
Diversification of foreign supply sources and transmission routes
In relative terms, Germany's gas supply is broadly diversified. An extensive system of pipelines is used to both import natural gas into Germany and to distribute it around the country.
Natural gas is transported from a number of Norwegian gas fields to Emden/Dornum via three pipelines (Norpipe, Europipe I and II), with a total capacity of 54 billion cubic metres.
Russian gas is transported via the Yamal-Europe pipeline (capacity of around 33 billion cubic metres, crossing the border at Mallnow) and the Ukrainian gas transmission system (capacity of approximately 120 billion cubic metres, crossing the border at Waidhaus/Sayda) to Germany and Western Europe. This system also enables the two existing strands of the Nord Stream pipeline to bring Russian gas directly from Russia. Both strands, each of which is 1,224 km in length, run from Portovaya Bay near Vyborg, across the Baltic Sea to Lubmin, near Greifswald, on the German coast. Since the completion of the second strand in 2012, it has had a transport capacity of up to 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year, and is able to supply consumers in Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Czech Republic and other countries.
In addition to this, there are many pipeline connections with the Netherlands, including the Groningen gas field.
Future plans will focus on developing the Caspian region ("Southern Gas Corridor") as a new source of supply for Europe and, indirectly at least, for Germany too. From 2019 onwards, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline is set to carry gas with an initial capacity of 10 billion cubic metres from Azerbaijan to Europe.
Stable relationships with supplier countries/long-term gas supply contracts
Long-term contracts for importing gas give producers security as regards future sales volumes and are used as an instrument to finance the considerable investments required in exploration, production and infrastructure. For the countries importing gas, these contracts are a key component in securing supply in the long term. Some supply contracts have terms of 20 years and longer.
European Commission gas stress test
In order to analyse and draw conclusions from potential scenarios at European level involving a shortage in the natural gas supply, gas stress tests have been carried out in 38 European countries. The tests simulated two specific disruption scenarios: first, a complete halt of Russian gas imports to the EU; and second, a disruption of Russian gas imports through the Ukrainian transit route for a period of one or six months.
The European Commission published the results of the gas stress tests on its website in October 2014.
Natural gas storage facilities play an important role in balancing out the seasonal fluctuations in production and consumption, and in guaranteeing security of supply.
Germany’s favourable geological conditions make it a good location for the construction of storage facilities. The existing gas storage facilities are large enough to guarantee security of supply in periods of intensive winter weather and in the event of supply disruptions. This was the finding of the study entitled “Possibilities to improve gas security and crisis prevention via regulation of storage” (in German), which was published by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy on 23 June 2015. For this to be the case, the storage facilities must be sufficiently full.
At the end of 2015, Germany had 51 natural gas storage facilities in operation (20 pore storage facilities and 31 caverns). The maximum volume of usable working gas is currently 24.6 billion cubic metres. Germany has the largest natural gas storage capacity in the EU and the fourth largest in the world, after the United States, Russia and Ukraine. Statistically, the total storage capacity could, at present, supply the whole country for 80 days on average. This storage volume is set to be increased further over the next few years.
The European Commission commissioned a study into the contribution of gas storage facilities to the internal energy market and to security of supply. The study was published in August 2015 and is available here (status: 2014).
Infrastructure for liquefied natural gas (LNG)
Access to LNG terminals is also becoming increasingly important for Germany. LNG ("liquefied natural gas") is natural gas that has been converted into liquid form by cooling. Its low volume makes it particularly advantageous for transportation and storage. Worldwide, liquefied natural gas is playing an ever greater role and, as a fuel for shipping and heavy freight haulage, is extremely important for reducing harmful emissions and for meeting climate targets.
Access to LNG can theoretically be secured for the German market through its neighbours Belgium (Zeebrugge), the Netherlands (Rotterdam) or other European countries. German gas companies have acquired stakes in LNG terminals abroad and are planning to acquire further capacities (in Belgium, France and the Netherlands).