Wintershall Dea is calling for the transformation of the gas industry to be accelerated in order to achieve the climate targets in Germany and Europe. “The coming years will be crucial if we in the gas industry are also to take decisive steps on the path towards climate neutrality. We will make our industry future-proof,” said Mario Mehren, CEO of Wintershall Dea, Europe’s leading independent gas and oil producer, at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit held in Berlin on 17 January.
Wintershall Dea is driving this transformation with hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS), as these technologies will be crucial for reducing emissions. “Most importantly, Germany’s new federal government must quickly set the course for its energy policies, especially when it comes to hydrogen and building new gas-fired power plants,” Mehren stressed. “The energy transition will only succeed if we do not leave out any technology that can reduce emissions. The revision of the National Hydrogen Strategy announced in the coalition agreement must therefore also take hydrogen from natural gas into account so as to enable a rapid market ramp-up,” Mehren continued. Moreover, the energy transition will only succeed if it is pursued globally, he added, explaining: “Producers like Russia, Norway and North Africa view the EU as a key market and will certainly develop products that Europe wants and needs – whether climate-friendly gas or CCS.”
According to the Germany Energy Agency (dena) study on an integrated energy transition, demand for hydrogen will increase more than tenfold by 2045, from today’s 60 terawatt hours to 657 terawatt hours. To cover this demand, hydrogen from natural gas will also be needed. This will be the only way, Mehren emphasised, to usher in the hydrogen era in Germany, but also in Europe. Wintershall Dea is involved in various projects to produce climate-friendly hydrogen from natural gas. For example, it is working with the energy company VNG to put into operation in 2023 the first plant in Germany to produce “turquoise” hydrogen. In addition, Wintershall Dea is researching methane pyrolysis with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
Building new, state-of-the-art gas-fired power plants will be crucial
Wintershall Dea’s CEO also highlighted the construction of new gas-fired power plants. This must be tackled quickly, he said, in order to ensure a secure energy supply and to safeguard the competitiveness of the industry after the planned phase-outs of nuclear and coal. Germany’s new federal government has already stipulated this in its coalition agreement. Thus, expanding renewable energies and securing the supply of gas will go hand in hand, especially since modern gas-fired power plants can be operated using hydrogen. “We welcome the EU’s plans to classify modern gas-fired power plants as sustainable in its taxonomy, as they are and will remain a reliable backbone during the transition to a carbon-neutral energy system,” Mehren said.
Legal regulation for CCS needed in Germany
Wintershall Dea is also calling for a new legal regulation for the safe offshore storage of CO2 (CCS) in Germany. CCS makes it possible to reduce the emissions that cannot be avoided, such as those generated by industry. This efficient technology is already being used in neighbouring countries. Beginning in late 2022, Wintershall Dea plans to start safely storing CO2 in the Danish North Sea as a partner of Project Greensand. The pilot project is being supported by the Danish government with EUR 26 million in funding. Mehren is convinced that this valuable experience with CCS technology should also be put to use in Germany.
Mario Mehren’s five theses on the future of the energy system, also published in the supplement Handelsblatt Journal Energiewirtschaft, can be found here: How we will manage transition.