Stavanger – Supply security in Europe has traditionally always begun on the continent’s own doorstep. Martin Bachmann, Member of the Board of Executive Directors of Wintershall responsible for Exploration and Production, firmly believes that this will remain so in future too. Speaking at the international exhibition Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) in Stavanger, he said, “The North Sea – and particularly Norway – will be extremely important for Europe’s supply of oil and gas in future too. Norway has the resources, is politically stable and has very good infrastructure.” Wintershall plans to continue expanding its activities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf considerably.

Norway is Germany’s most important energy supplier after Russia. Last year, for example, almost 30 percent, in other words nearly one in three cubic meters of natural gas imports came from the Scandinavian country. The German population also recognizes this, as a recent survey conducted by the public opinion research institute forsa and commissioned by Wintershall shows: 78 percent of Germans would favor Norway as a reliable partner to make up for declining natural gas production in the European Union. 62 percent named Canada, followed by the USA (45 percent) and Russia and the Middle East (with 38 percent each).

Wintershall continues investments in the Norwegian Continental Shelf

Norway is a growth region with special importance for Germany’s largest internationally active oil and gas producer. According to the business and investment magazine “Kapital”, out of the 500 largest companies in the whole of Norway, last year Wintershall Norge was the company that grew the fastest. Wintershall developed into one of the largest producers of oil and gas on the Continental Shelf during this time. An important milestone in this development was the partnership it entered with Statoil in 2012. With the asset swap of oil and gas fields, Wintershall not only took over the operatorship of a producing platform – Brage – in Norway for the first time in 2013, it also increased its daily production in Norway thirteenfold to 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

“We will continue resolutely on our growth course in Norway and already have our sights set on the next target of 50,000 barrels per day by 2015,” Bernd Schrimpf, Managing Director of Wintershall Norge, says. The company plans to achieve this production target with the fields Knarr and Edvard Grieg, amongst others, which are currently being developed, and in which Wintershall holds working interests.

“We are paying particular attention to the Wintershall-operated fields. We already launched an investment program for the exploration and development of our discoveries in Norway by 2015 worth up to € 2 billion,” says Schrimpf. “And we are sticking to it.” The Wintershall-operated Maria discovery, with its estimated production volume of around 130 million barrels of crude oil, in addition to just over two billion standard cubic meters of natural gas, is set to begin production in 2018.

Natural gas – energy with a future

At the ONS Bachmann highlights the importance of the long-term supply security of natural resources while discussing the “Energiewende”, or energy transition, in Germany, an undertaking that is being closely monitored by the international energy sector. Bachmann underlines the potential of natural gas in particular: “When it comes to making national economies more environmentally friendly and at the same time more competitive, then there is no alternative to natural gas. There is no other technology that can implement climate protection so effectively,” says Bachmann.

The USA, for example, saved 740 million tons of CO2 between 2007 and 2012 by using more natural gas. Furthermore, America is enjoying a robust re-industrialization. “We find a different situation in Germany, where the energy transition was adopted. Here coal is increasingly being used as a fuel and natural gas is having to take a back seat – with grave consequences,” Bachmann explains. Although the Germans are paying over € 23 billion for renewable energies subsidies in 2014 alone, CO2 emissions there are on the rise again.

This trend could be reversed cost-effectively by using natural gas more, as a new study by the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne shows. Germany could save around 40 percent of its CO2 emissions in the power segment alone compared to 1990 levels if it replaced coal with natural gas. “The energy transition in Germany shows that focusing energy policy solely on renewable energies is akin to leading the country up a blind alley. Idealism alone is not enough. Pragmatism is just as important. That would enable us to turn our attention back to natural gas as a driving force and cornerstone of positive change in the energy system,” Bachmann concludes.