By Vera Eckert
FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Germany on Tuesday completed construction of its first floating terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven as it scrambles to secure more LNG and move away from Russian pipeline gas.
"The new LNG landing place is a big step towards a secure energy supply," said Lower Saxony state economy minister Olaf Lies in a statement.
Federal economy minister Robert Habeck said that Wilhelmshaven would become functional around the turn of the year, as would a second floating terminal at the Brunsbuettel North Sea port.
The Wilhelmshaven floating storage and regasification (FSRU) unit, for utility Uniper, will be moored at a now expanded pier and enabled to regasify LNG arriving on special tankers.
The new port infrastructure there will be equipped to switch to imports of low-carbon energy sources such as hydrogen in the future, said Lower Saxony environment minister Christian Meyer.
Germany relied on Russia for nearly a third of its gas last year but Berlin, which aims to halt any remaining Russian flows by the summer of 2024, in May started fast-tracking FSRU applications and related ones for more permanent, onshore LNG reception terminals at some sites.
The designated Wilhelmshaven FSRU, the vessel Hoegh Esperanza, is still located at a shipyard in Brest, France, Eikon Refinitiv ship tracking data showed. A spokesperson for the ministry led by Lies said the Esperanza was expected to arrive fully laden in mid-December and would be able to process incoming LNG tankers from January.
Habeck, listing the next steps in Germany's LNG strategy, said the FSRU for RWE in Brunsbuettel should also arrive around the turn of the year, and projects at Stade and Lubmin would become operational at the end of 2023.
Wilhelmshaven will have another FSRU start up in the fourth quarter of next year, operated by owner Excelerate Energy on behalf of a consortium of Tree Energy Solutions, E.ON and Engie.
A privately chartered and operated FSRU was also expected at Lubmin at the end of this year.
Taken together, the six FSRUs could theoretically cover a third of Germany's annual gas needs, based on the 90.5 billion cubic metres consumed in 2021.
(Reporting by Vera Eckert, additonal reporting by Nora Buli, editing by Kirsten Donovan and Miranda Murray)