The first floating storage and regasification unit to arrive in German waters is facing a month-long delay to its start-up at the draft-restricted Baltic port of Lubmin, due to regulatory hurdles.

The Neptune FSRU, part-owned by Hoegh LNG Partners, was chartered by a joint venture between TotalEnergies and privately owned Deutsche ReGas to import liquefied natural gas into northeast Germany.

The floater arrived at the Rugen island port terminal of Mukran late last month and was scheduled to make the 50-kilometre journey for final commissioning and start-up at Lubmin by 1 December.

Regional and federal authorities in Germany have been expediting permitting processes more quickly since the supply of Russian gas to Germany was affected by the war in Ukraine.

Deutsche Regas was granted a landmark regulatory waiving from German federal energy watchdog Bundesnetzagentur on 17 November, apparently opening the way for LNG import operations for the next 20 years.

However, permits from local authorities are still pending, leaving start-up in doubt.

A spokesperson for Deutsche Regas confirmed the Neptune FSRU reached Mukran for a final stopover on its way to Lubmin, but has since faced delay.

The start-up date has now been rescheduled to the end of December, Deutsche Regas told Upstream.

“Commissioning can, of course, only take place once all the necessary permits have been obtained. The approval procedures are the responsibility of the relevant authorities,” the spokesperson said.

“We will provide further details in due course.”

Local objections

A Deutsche ReGas statement showed that a public consultation, which ended on 28 November, over the Lubmin-based LNG terminal resulted in many objections submitted to the environmental authority for Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, North Germany, coming from nature conservation associations, citizens and infrastructure operators.

Lubmin: the landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and the transfer station of the OPAL gas pipeline. Photo: AP/SCANPIX

Regional environmental campaign organisation BUND Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has led arguments against the terminal, warning about potential damage to nature and tourism from the presence of LNG carriers in the shallow-water environment.

In an interview with the Deutschlandfunk Kultur radio station, Corinna Cwielag, a biologist and director of the campaign group, claimed that the seven-metre draft of the approach to Lubmin meant that LNG carriers could not be fully loaded, which would increase their frequency and add to the disturbance of lagoon waters.

Jetty solution

The Deutsche ReGas spokesperson stressed that a special jetty has been completed, as has the upgrading of the Lubmin industrial port.

“Furthermore, Gascade Gastransport GmbH, Kassel, has completed the connecting pipeline to the landing station of the [North German Natural Gas Pipeline] and [Baltic Sea Pipeline Link]. This means that all the necessary components are now in place in the region and all the infrastructural prerequisites are in place for the LNG terminal to be technically completed in the short term and commissioned before the end of December,” he said.

French supermajor TotalEnergies forged its partnership with Deutsche ReGas in mid-2022, committing to supply, install and operate the Neptune FSRU.

With the floater in place, the partners planned to feed 4.5 Bcm per annum of gas into the German gas trunkline network.

The permitting process for Lubmin port has the scope to cover a second FSRU and annual gas imports of 13.5 Bcm.

Falling short in supply

The delay will prolong the sense of frustration felt among German consumers of natural gas, not least in an industrial sector coping with record energy prices.

To break free from Russian pipeline gas supply dependency, the German government has backed the chartering of five FSRUs this year, aiming to import at least 25 Bcm of gas through the winter of 2023/24, according to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs & Climate Action.

Under Germany’s government-backed programme, two FSRUs have been chartered by energy developer RWE from Norway’s Hoegh LNG, two units owned by Monaco-headquartered Dynagas have been chartered to Uniper, and another FSRU owned by Texas-based Excelerate’s FSRU has been chartered by Engie, TES and E.On.

Stay a step ahead with the Upstream News app
Read high quality news and insight on the oil and gas business and its energy transition on-the-go. The News app offers you more control over your Upstream reading experience than any other platform.