KASSEL/BERLIN (Own report) – Wintershall, the giant German gas company, has begun reorienting the focus of its expansion drive westward. This subsidiary of the mega chemical company, BASF, had set high hopes on having direct access to Russia’s enormous gas deposits – the largest in the world – which would have brought it to within reach of the summit of the world’s natural gas sector. This perspective was obliterated by the escalation of tensions between Moscow and the West. An additional impetus for the necessary search for an alternative is provided by the fact that German gas imports from the Netherlands are on the verge of being shut down. Beginning 2020, The Hague intends to drastically reduce gas production from the country’s largest gas field, because draining the deposit would heighten dangers of earthquakes. Wintershall is particularly expanding its activities in Norway and has already begun shale gas production in Argentina, where the world’s second largest shale gas deposits are estimated to be found. Wintershall’s orientation shift also reduces its interest in business with Russia, while reinforcing its transatlantic interest.
Shortages in Europe
At the same time, a foreseeable loss of European gas supplies has placed the search for new providers of German gas imports on the agenda. Germany’s domestic gas production – which still covers nearly ten percent of the Germany’s needs – is rapidly diminishing. Experts predict that the current German fields will dry up within the next decade. Great Britain, a traditional German gas supplier, is producing only one-third of what it had produced in 2000, and is itself, becoming increasingly dependent on imports. According to the most recent reports, the Netherlands will sharply reduce its gas supplies, in the foreseeable future. In 2013, these supplies were still covering 26.4 percent of Germany’s overall gas requirements. The continued exploitation of its largest gas field near Groningen – one of the world’s most significant deposits – must be sharply reduced by 2020, because its drainage heightens dangers of regional earthquakes. Due to these multiple shortages, experts in the branch expect a loss of up to one-third of Germany’s gas supplies.
Advances in Europe
Wintershall is currently focusing on its North Sea gas production, where no political resistance is expected. At present, the company is operating 22 offshore platforms off the coast of the Netherlands, and seeking to expand significantly their gas outputs. Above all, the company intends to intensify its activities, in Norway. Norway is also no competition for the world’s leading gas-producing countries, but it does have the largest gas deposits in Europe. Since “Wintershall Norge” was founded in 2006, the company has been able to systematically strengthen its standing in that country. In 2013, in the course of an asset swap with Norway’s majority state-owned Statoil Company, Wintershall assumed responsibility for operations at three significant oil and gas fields. In 2014, it obtained still more shares and an array of licenses. “With over 50 licenses – more than half of these as operator – Wintershall is already one of the major license holders in Norway, and invests approx. half of its budget for worldwide exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf,” announced the company. Wintershall is seen as one of the fastest growing companies in Norway’s oil and gas sectors.
More Shale Gas than the USA
As a supplement, Wintershall is banking on the very controversial production of shale gas – and is doing so in one of the industry’s most promising countries, Argentina, which according to estimates has the world’s second largest shale gas and fourth largest shale oil deposits. It places even ahead of the United States in shale gas reserves. Having become active in the country already, back in 1979, during the military dictatorship – Wintershall has a firm standing in Argentina. It has become the country’s fourth largest gas producer. This year, the company began shale gas exploration in the Neuquén Province in central Argentina. Experts predict that the shale formation, where the company is drilling, could produce enough energy to “cover Argentina’s requirements for the next 4 centuries.”