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Shale gas discussion continues to block conventional natural gas production in Germany1 billion € worth of investments on hold / Jobs at risk in the industry / Reliable legal framework urgently required

Berlin/Hanover. Natural gas production in Germany once again fell by around six percent in the past year. The reason: For more than three years now, the ongoing discussion on shale gas has prevented projects from being approved that require the use of fracking even for conventional gas production. This is therefore blocking established natural gas production.

“More than a third of the conventional natural gas produced in Germany has been safely recovered in an environmentally friendly manner with the use of hydraulic fracturing,” explains Andreas Scheck, head of Wintershall’s activities in Germany, speaking at the Handelsblatt Annual Energy Industry Conference in Berlin. According to Scheck, the strengthening of Germany’s supply security depends not just on the possible production of shale gas reserves in the future but above all on established, conventional production.

Today, only 11 percent of Germany's natural gas requirement is met by domestic sources - 15 years ago it was 22 percent. “The project backlog is not only threatening domestic supply security but is also meanwhile putting jobs at risk, especially in Lower Saxony,” warns Scheck. Around 95 percent of Germany's natural gas is produced in Lower Saxony. According to a survey by the Association of German Crude Oil and Natural Gas Producers (WEG), around 1 billion € worth of investments are currently on hold. According to the association, the threat to supply is putting around 20,000 jobs at risk.

Oil and gas have still lost none of their importance – especially in Lower Saxony: Each year, approximately €600 million in royalties are paid to Lower Saxony for producing oil and gas in the federal state. 


Oil and gas also needed in future

Crude oil is the most important component in the chemical industry and is used in many everyday objects: in clothes and furniture, mobile phones and computers, and in medical products and medicines. Natural gas could at least partly replace oil in the heating market and is the perfect partner for renewable energies. This makes it even more important that resources are used responsibly and in the best possible way. That’s why we also need domestic production in future. Because securing our energy supplies begins on our own doorstep,” explains Scheck.

To ensure this, however, reliable regulations are required for hydraulic fracturing, which for decades has been safely and successfully deployed in Germany with so-called tight gas. “We need a reliable legal framework, time frames and planning security for the future use of fracking technology in Germany, of course taking into account Germany’s highest safety and environmental standards,” adds Scheck, whereby he points out that the established production from conventional reservoirs and the shale gas deposits need to be considered separately. He says that the production of shale gas also needs to be first of all tested in Germany with scientific monitoring. Theoretically, the use of possible shale gas reserves could maintain current production levels in Germany for at least another 100 years. 

There is, however, considerable experience with conventional tight gas. The production is also being continuously developed with the latest technological standards and new scientific findings. “It’s already safe to use today. Over 300 fracs in Germany alone have proved this during the last 50 years,” says Scheck. He says this is why it is important to conduct a rational debate.

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. The company employs more than 2,500 staff worldwide from 40 nations and is now Germany’s largest crude oil and natural gas producer.

Wintershall. Shaping the future.

Contact: Ulrike Saße