Gas will continue to make a major contribution to Germany’s energy supply in the coming decades. Only a small proportion of the natural gas used in Germany is produced in the country, while 94% is imported from Norway, the Netherlands and other countries. Natural gas reaches Germany via pipelines, and is subsequently fed into the German long-distance gas grid and the downstream distribution grids.
An important role in the energy transition
Natural gas is one of the most important primary energy sources in Germany’s energy mix, second only to petroleum. In 2017, its share in Germany’s primary energy consumption amounted to 23.8%.
Whilst the heat market is still by far the most important market for natural gas, this type of fuel is now being used for other purposes as well. In particular, gas can play an important role in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in the power sector. Furthermore, natural gas also lends itself to being used in the transport sector. It has lower carbon emissions than other fossil fuels and is therefore more climate-friendly.
The total length of Germany’s gas grid is 511,000 km. The pipelines which go to make up the gas grid are essential for transporting and distributing natural gas. They enable widely varying quantities of gas to be delivered safely over long distances. Considerable amounts of gas are transported across Germany to other EU states.
Natural gas production in Germany: fracking
In 2016, some 8 billion cubic metres of natural gas was produced in Germany, some of this using conventional fracking methods. Conventional fracking has been used in Germany for many years and is a proven method of extracting natural gas from sandstone rock formations. Safety always comes first, which is why fracking is banned in sensitive areas. The Federal Government has also clearly stated its opposition to the use of “unconventional fracking”; no experience has been gathered with this in Germany so far.
Playing safe with the gas supply
The strong dependence on imports means that the instruments for ensuring are vital. Germany’s natural gas supply is very secure and reliable. Germany has the world's fourth-largest gas-storage capacity, which, at close to 24.3 billion cubic metres, is also the largest within the entire European Union.
Trade and regulation of the gas market
The German gas market is characterised by a large number of privately organised operators in the areas of networks, storage operations and gas trading. There are currently two market areas in Germany (NCG and Gaspool), each with their own coordinator who ensures that access to the gas grid and market activities is carried out in an efficient fashion. 16 long-distance gas companies are currently operating on the German gas market – other players are the distribution system operators, storage facility operators, and traders. The for the liberalisation of the market for electricity and natural gas, most recently amended by the Third Internal Energy Market Package, redefines the areas of activity of market players. To promote competition, the operators of gas supply networks and storage facilities are separated from natural gas trading activities. The electricity and gas supply grids are regulated by the and the regulatory authorities of the Länder.
Gas price and costs
As is the case for other goods and services, natural gas prices are not regulated but are set according to supply and demand. Prices are based on different cost components.
Acquisition costs include the gas purchase price and transport costs. Distribution costs are all the costs involved in transmitting natural gas to the end customers. These costs also include all costs associated with the expansion and maintenance of the natural gas grid. The natural gas tax is based on the Energy Tax Act under which the level of natural gas consumption in the various areas of application is taxed.
Looking ahead to power-to-gas: Storing energy in the gas grid
Another important and promising use for the gas grid is emerging. By converting electricity from renewable sources into methane and feeding it into the gas grid, the latter could serve as a huge reservoir for several billion kilowatt hours of energy. A number of research and demonstration projects aimed at using this technology over the next decades are currently underway.
Promoting the use of natural gas as a fuel is one way to cut the carbon emissions in the transport sector, because vehicles fuelled by natural gas emit hardly any particulates or nitrous oxides. For this reason, the Economic Affairs Ministry has launched the “Round Table on Gas-Based Mobility”. The aim is to enable the transport sector to achieve a share of four per cent of final energy consumption by 2020.