Qatar Petroleum, the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), is in talks with German utilities Uniper and RWE to set up a German LNG terminal. That stirs up the fierce debate in Germany about whether and how Berlin should wean itself off Russian gas piped through the Baltic and eastern Europe.
“We are very seriously interested in a stake in a German LNG terminal and are talking with both companies — Uniper and RWE,” the head of Qatar Petroleum, Saad Al Kaabi, told Handelsblatt. There were two options to participate, the executive said: bear responsibility for a part of the terminal’s capacity and guarantee supply or become a co-shareholder in a terminal.
Qatar Petroleum, owned by the namesake Arab peninsula, has become the world’s biggest supplier of LNG, liquefying natural gas, transporting it by tanker and then converting it back to gas upon arrival at its destination. It supplies LNG to France, the Netherlands, China and other nations, and owns stakes in terminals in the UK and Italy.
Qatar Petroleum’s offer will likely fuel an argument raging in Germany between utilities that want to keep on buying Russian gas and some policymakers who see LNG as a way to lessen Germany’s energy dependence on Russia. Moscow’s gas giant Gazprom is building its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany, although the project could become subject to US sanctions.
US President Donald Trump has been deeply critical of Germany buying gas from Russia and wants Berlin to diversify its energy imports by purchasing LNG from the US. He called Germany “captive” to Russia. The German government, in a concession to Mr. Trump, recently raised the possibility of subsidizing the construction of an LNG terminal in the north of Germany. Various consortia are bidding for the contract.
The EU, meanwhile, is hoping that increased imports from the US would help to avert threatened US tariffs on European auto imports that would hit Germany’s huge auto sector hardest.
Qatar stands to profit in any case, whether Germany’s LNG supplies come from Qatar or from the US, because Qatar Petroleum has major investments in the US LNG market.
RWE and Uniper, the latter a financial backer of the Nord Stream 2 project, want to expand their LNG business and are potential buyers of Qatar Petroleum’s gas. An RWE official confirmed to Reuters that talks were underway with Qatar Petroleum on LNG deliveries but that they did not involve a joint terminal.
More details could emerge on Friday, when the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visits Chancellor Angela Merkel to announce billions of euros of new Qatari investments in Germany. After all the explosive leaks from the White House, the chancellor’s office might then be able to give Mr. Trump some sorely-needed good news.
Mathias Brüggmann is an international correspondent for Handelsblatt. He is particularly interested in Eastern Europe, the Arabic world and Iran. To contact the author: [email protected]