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70 years of crude oil production in Emlichheim: Making the most of the home advantage

EMLICHHEIM. A big ceremony has taken place in the west of Lower Saxony to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Wintershall’s production of crude oil in Emlichheim on the German-Dutch border, which it has also kept at a consistently high level. Furthermore, Emlichheim will continue to make an important contribution to the energy supply in Germany in the future.

“Emlichheim is a production site with excellent prospects. It looks as if we will be producing oil here beyond the year 2040,” Martin Bachmann, Member of the Wintershall Board of Executive Managers responsible for Production and Exploration, told some 200 guests from politics and industry at a festive ceremony to mark 70 years of crude oil production in Emlichheim. “Hence, the joint success story of Wintershall and Emlichheim is by no means over yet,” Bachmann said. Wintershall organized an open day after the ceremony and invited all the people of Emlichheim to visit the production site.

The crude oil field Emlichheim in the county of Bentheim is one of the largest and oldest in Germany. The first well “Emlichheim 1” started producing in 1944. Production reached a peak at the beginning of the 1950’s and was at risk of falling off substantially after that. This is because the crude oil in the reservoir at Emlichheim is viscous and thus difficult to produce.

However, with the development of innovative production technologies and the use of steam flooding since 1981, later also in combination with horizontal drilling, Wintershall was able to significantly extend the life of the crude oil field – and maintain production at a constantly high level of around 150,000 tons of crude oil a year. Overall, Wintershall has produced more than 10 million tons of crude oil in Emlichheim in the last 70 years.

“70 years of crude oil production in Emlichheim is both confirmation and an incentive at the same time: confirmation that domestic production not only contributes to the energy supply in Germany, but also enables the development of technological know-how. At the same time it is an incentive to keep using this home advantage to the full in future too,” Joachim Pünnel, Director of Wintershall Deutschland, said.

With the steam flooding technique, which Wintershall uses in Emlichheim, steam with a temperature of 300 degrees is injected into the reservoir. The oil trapped in the rock warms up, becomes less viscous and flows to the production wells more easily. Wintershall can raise the recovery rate of the reservoir in Emlichheim by up to 50 percent with steam flooding in combination with horizontal drilling, which also enhances production. Usually only about 30 to 35 percent of the oil is recovered from the ground.

 “We conduct research and produce under the highest environmental and safety standards at our sites such as Emlichheim and Barnstorf. This power of innovation and engineering ingenuity ‘made in Germany’ open doors for us to the biggest sources of energy in all the world’s most important production regions, such as Russia, the Arab region, and South America,” the Wintershall Board Member Bachmann explained. This home advantage had to be exploited in future too, especially as every ton of oil and every cubic meter gas from Germany goes towards enhancing supply security.

Hence, Wintershall has continuously invested in the production infrastructure in Emlichheim in recent years. As well as dozens of new wells, the field pipelines, which measure almost 30 kilometers in length, were gradually replaced with stainless steel pipelines. Moreover, Wintershall built a plant for combined heat and power generation. It now supplies other Wintershall operations in Germany with electricity from Emlichheim. To generate power and steam, Wintershall uses gas that cannot be exploited commercially.

Germany finds itself in a global race for the most important energy natural resources, as Bachmann underlined in his official speech. He explained that for this reason it was not only important to develop technologies in Germany that provide access to international resources, he said that Germany also had to use its domestic resources. About 95 percent of Germany’s gas is produced in Lower Saxony, a leading energy state in the country. Domestic gas production, which has fallen again because of an authorization backlog in 2013, caused by the fracking debate, currently covers about twelve percent of Germany’s demand for natural gas. And crude oil from Germany makes a contribution of about three percent to the annual requirements – which still equals the quantity that Germany imports every year from Saudi Arabia.

 “Germany needs energy natural resources. We will depend on oil and gas for a long time to come. The energy transition will not change that either. There will be no medicines, no wind turbines, no iPads without oil. And without natural gas, the lights will go out before we have reached the green age,” Bachmann warned. With investments in sites such as Emlichheim, Wintershall is making this possible in future. “But we cannot do it alone. We need a clear signal from policy-makers that they are committed to domestic crude oil and natural gas production,” Bachmann explained.

Wintershall Holding GmbH, based in Kassel, Germany, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BASF in Ludwigshafen. The company has been active in the extraction of natural resources for 120 years, and in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas for over 80 years. Wintershall focuses on selected core regions where the company has built up a high level of regional and technological expertise. These are Europe, Russia, North Africa, South America, and increasingly the Middle East region. The company wants to expand its business further with exploration and production, selected partnerships, innovation and technological competence. Wintershall employs some 2,500 staff worldwide from 40 nations and is now Germany’s largest, internationally active crude oil and natural gas producer. 

Wintershall Deutschland based in Barnstorf, Lower Saxony, is the center of Wintershall’s exploration and production activities. Important know-how on modern drilling and production techniques is also acquired here and applied worldwide. The company has been producing crude oil in Emlichheim for 70 years and employs around 100 staff here. 

Wintershall. Shaping the future. 

Contact: Mark Krümpel