Leading the industry
A fully owned subsidiary of Norwegian energy company Statoil ASA, Statoil Deutschland was established in April 1984.
Headquartered in Ostfriesland, Lower Saxony the core business of Statoil in Germany involves the transportation and storage of natural gas and the support of the parent Statoil corporation in relation to projects in the country. The second largest supplier of gas in Europe, Germany is Statoil’s primary gas market where Norwegian gas covers approximately 27 per cent of German demand. Connected to Norwegian gas fields by the Europipe I, II and Norpipe pipelines, gas supplies to the country commenced in 1977.
“Statoil Deutschland is more than 25 years old and in that time natural gas has experienced extraordinary growth and acceptance in Germany,” explains Richard Eriksen, managing director of Statoil Deutschland. “If you look today at Ostfriesland, you’ll see that the major natural gas infrastructure of Germany is located here, as are major supply lines to the Netherlands. The region is also playing host to some major investments, including new gas storages at Etzel, new pipelines, for example the Bunde-Etzel-Pipeline, and a pipeline border crossing into the Netherlands”
In October 2009, two subsidiaries, Statoil Deutschland Transport and Statoil Deutschland Storage, were established in view of approval of the ‘Third EU Set of Directives’ for regulating the European natural gas market. An independent subsidiary, Statoil Deutschland Transport provides capacities for the transportation of natural gas to the customer. The transport grid of the company is controlled and maintained using the latest technology and through the competence and experience of its employees.
Statoil Deutschland Storage is a storage system operator of the underground storage Etzel Gas-Lager, near Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony. In 1986 Norway and Germany signed a series of new gas supply agreements as German gas consumption and demand rose rapidly. To guarantee gas supplies, even in the event of potential disruptions, Statoil began establishing a gas storage facility in Etzel.
Between 1989 and 1991, nine crude oil caverns were converted to gas storage facilities and in 1993 the Etzel Gas-Lager began operating with an initial working gas volume of around 500 million cubic metres: “When establishing Etzel Gas-Lager the main driver was regularity and security of supply. The design was specifically based on guaranteeing a 14 day stock supply to support Norwegian deliveries, and the original investment was made by a joint venture of Norwegian suppliers,” Richard continues.
“Up until 2005 the German market was quite stable and was well equipped in relation to gas storage. However, since the late 1990s and into the early years of the current millennium certain incidents, like a shortage of gas in the UK and the further liberalisation of the EU markets, triggered new storage strategies,” Richard highlights. “The demand for being present in various markets and having high levels of trading activity increased dramatically and the physical exchange between markets became an increasingly important tool.
“The owners therefore saw the need to expand Etzel Gas-Lager and decided to do so as soon as possible. The Etzel salt dome provided increased capacity to store gas and an additional compressor allowed for more injection capacity. The added storage was specifically setup for higher cycling, meaning customers can inject or withdraw for trading purposes at any time of year irrespective of external factures, like the temperature or the weather environment. The expansion process took place over a three-year period where three core aims were defined and implemented. These were the continued improvement of the facilities’ security, increased efficiency by utilising the latest technology and the expansion of working gas capacities through the integration of additional caverns.”
The construction work was divided into two key phases, the first of which was the extension of the existing field piping system to incorporate additional converted caverns: “The extended piping connects all the cavern sites with the existing field piping system and the main operations centre of the Etzel Gas-Lager,” says Richard. “It is designed for a maximum working pressure of 230 bars. At each cavern the necessary operational infrastructure for gas was built, and shut-off valves and flow control valves were installed allowing gas flow to be measured with bi-directional ultrasonic flow metering.”
In the second construction phase, a number of additional buildings and systems were built on the six-hectare plant area. New additions include a modern compressor building with a third compressor unit, a gas cooler, an electrical engineering building, a new central metering station at the entrance to the site and a gas analysis container with all necessary equipment for measuring quality. Additionally, important pipe and safety systems and auxiliary utilities were systematically replaced or modified.
“Following the process of modernisation and extension, the Etzel Gas-Lager has a total of 19 caverns and the working gas capacity has been increased from around 500 million to over 1.2 billion cubic metres. Each of the caverns that have been converted to gas storage measures around 500 metres high and each has a diameter of around 40 metres, providing a geometric volume of approximately 600,000 cubic metres. At the same time the caverns at the Etzel salt dome are between 800 and 1300 metres below the surface of the earth,” Richard enthuses.
As the company grows, Richard is still keenly aware of the uncertainty that exists with the European natural gas market: “For Germany the new energy concept still needs to be clarified and further evaluated. There is no doubt that natural gas is the fuel for the future and it will play a key role in order to reach Europe’s climate goals. Natural gas is abundant, affordable, and cost-efficient and it will be the most important bridging energy in the years to come.
“Today the industry is also witnessing how gas can play a vital role in the future, as gas infrastructure is capable of storing and energy everywhere in Europe. This leads to a possible scenario where gas and the gas infrastructure can be used to modulate electricity produced from sources such as solar and wind power. This could make the upcoming changes cheaper as the natural gas infrastructure already exists.
In the years to come Statoil Deutschland will continue to actively provide a wider range of services to its customers, while also keeping an observant watch over changes within the industry: “The company will need to observe the carbon capture and storage market to evaluate whether there is a growing need to focus on a development there,” Richard concludes. “This could then require the building of new storage facilities and so, in order to remain at the forefront of the industry, Statoil Deutschland will continue to develop its business in such a way that enables it to find new customers and attract fresh investment.”
Services: Gas storage and transportation