March 5. 2024. 2:28

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Germany’s Scholz woos key gas supplier in Belgium

Belgian Prime minister Alexander De Croo will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday morning in Zeebrugge, the site of a massive LNG terminal, to discuss energy supply.

On Tuesday, De Croo will receive Scholz for a meeting on energy in Zeebrugge, a town on the Belgian coast where the largest LNG terminal complex in Europe is located.

Germany is eager to partake in Belgium’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) import capacity. When Russia cut gas flows to Germany, Belgium’s exports to Germany changed significantly. LNG flows from Belgium played a significant role in reducing the gas that once came from Nord Stream 1, and with the pipeline now in smithereens, De Croo has become one of Scholz’s best friends.

“Belgium helped France and Germany overcame their energy difficulties in 2022. We can show solidarity with our neighbour’s thanks to our unique location and strong interconnections,” Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten tweeted on 1 February.

With Zeebrugge playing such an important role, emphasising the energy partnership between the two countries is a key priority to Berlin. According to De Tijd, Germany is also pushing to increase gas imports via Belgium.

Whereas gas used to flow mainly from the north to the south, from Norway and the Netherlands to France, the flows now move from west to east: from the UK, the Dunkirk LNG terminal in France and the Zeebrugge LNG terminal in Belgium (both operated by Fluxys) to Germany and the Netherlands.

In January 2023, Belgium mainly imported natural gas from Norway (14.8 TWh) and mainly exported natural gas to Germany (21.4 TWh). Belgium has also become Germany’s third-largest natural gas supplier in 2022, only outdone by Norway and Russia.

Germany, which until recently had no infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), has constructed several LNG terminals. But although this capacity is expected to be expanded thanks to permanent terminals in the coming years, experts believe Berlin still has to rely on imports via Belgium for some time.

Down the same line, the recently expanded mega port of Antwerp-Bruges will continue to play an essential role in supplying German industry. The port hopes to become a future hub to import hydrogen for Germany’s energy-hungry industry.

Energy cooperation is “particularly important for the industries of both countries,” reads a press release from the prime minister, adding that this cooperation will help the two countries to increase their energy independence.

During the meeting, various other topics should be discussed, including efforts in electrification and carbon capture.

Belgium and Germany currently have one energy interconnector that was put in place in 2020 (ALEGrO).

On Monday evening, Bloomberg, citing two sources close to the file, reported that Germany and Belgium are considering building a second energy interconnector to increase cross-border electricity flows.

The two sources also said that operators Amprion and Elia are expected to sign an agreement to conduct a feasibility study for an interconnector, which could have a capacity of 1 gigawatt HVDC and be operational as early as 2028, according to a project submitted to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E).

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | ; Edited by Nikolaus J. Kurmayer)