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"Gas network is the backbone of the energy transition"Wintershall CEO promotes natural gas infrastructure ahead of grid expansion tour by Germany's Economics Minister

© Wintershall/Thomas Rosenthal

Hanover / Dusseldorf. Ahead of the trip by Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier, Wintershall CEO Mario Mehren has highlighted Germany's well-developed and functioning gas network. From 14 to 16 August (Tuesday to Thursday), Altmaier wants to see for himself why the expansion of the electricity grid in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia is taking so long.

"Germany's more than 500,000-kilometer-long gas network reaches practically every corner of the country and already transports twice the energy of the electricity grid. It's more cost-effective than transporting energy in power lines," Mehren told the media on Monday: "Gas pipelines are, so to speak, already the invisible backbone of the energy transition."

Mehren explained that on the one hand they are accepted – the network is laid and additional lines could follow – and on the other hand the use of the gas infrastructure is "future-proof", since in the long term increasingly more renewable gas could be stored or transported as needed.

The German gas network already transports around 1,000 billion kWh per year. That is twice the amount of energy in the electricity grid, which has a transport capacity of around 540 billion kWh per year. Gas is easier to transport than electricity. And at a much cheaper price. According to surveys by the German Gas and Water Industry Association (DVGW), the transport of energy via the gas network costs only about one fifth of the cost of transport in power lines.

"Using the existing gas infrastructure offers a particularly cost-efficient option for sector coupling and increases the acceptance of the energy transition in the population," said Mehren with conviction. "Even today, gas and its infrastructures are able to mitigate future demand and thus the costs for expanding the electricity grid. It's not expedient to exclusively understand sector coupling as complete electrification of all sectors based on renewable energy sources." 

According to Mehren, the value of the German gas infrastructure is hard to overestimate precisely because of the delays and cost increases in expanding the electricity grid. "We should therefore fundamentally understand electricity and gas networks as integrated energy infrastructures and couple them accordingly," Mehren continued: "We're therefore calling for the previously separate grid development planning for the electricity and gas networks to be integrated into a joint grid development plan during this parliamentary term."

He said that Germany has the potential to position itself as a strong economic centre in the context of the energy transition and, at the same time, to assume a pioneering role in climate protection: "I'm convinced that given their potential, natural gas and its infrastructures can play an even more important role in a successful energy transition."

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 85 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 about 2,000 staff worldwide from 50 nations and is now Germany’s largest, internationally active crude oil and natural gas producer.

Wintershall. Shaping the future.

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