Deutsche Umwelthilfe files objection to floating LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven

Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. (DUH), a non-profit environmental and consumer protection association, has filed an objection to the operating license and water law permit of the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) Höegh Esperanza in Wilhelmshaven.

Archive. Courtesy of Niedersachsen Ports

The floating LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven was put into operation in December 2022 following the arrival of the FSRU Höegh Esperanza which was chartered by the government from Norwegian company Höegh LNG.

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This was done despite “considerable concerns” from DUH and local citizens’ groups, the association said.

Germany energy company Uniper, the operator of the Wilhelmshaven LNG terminal, was granted an operating license until 2043 which, according to DUH, came with unlimited permission to discharge dozens of tons of environmentally harmful chlorine every year.

The association is now calling on the authorities to comply with environmental laws and to bring the terminal ship’s operating license into line with the legally binding Paris climate agreement.

Thus, the operating license for the FSRU Höegh Esperanza would be limited to a maximum of ten years, that is until 31 December 2032 at the latest.

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Managing Director of the DUH, said: “There must be no environmental discounts when approving plants for liquefied natural gas. We must ensure that climate protection also endures in the current energy crisis.

“If we now issue numerous permanent operating licenses for new fossil projects, we are going from one fossil dependency to the next and jeopardize our climate goals. It must be clear that compliance with the Paris climate agreement is non-negotiable. The lifespan of the LNG terminal must be limited to a maximum of ten years.”

According to research by DUH, the cleaning process with chlorine is also outdated and must be replaced by environmentally friendly processes – other LNG terminal ships are cleaned entirely without chlorine, for example using mechanical processes. The use of chlorine as a biocide is a massive threat to the flora and fauna in the Wadden Sea National Park, the association explains.

Furthermore, DUH criticizes the fact that the competent authority did not oblige the operator Uniper to comply with environmental protection criteria by using alternative cleaning processes. 

Constantin Zerger, DUH Head of Energy and Climate Protection, added: “The use of tons of chlorine as a biocide is a disaster for the biodiversity of the jade and the local mussel fishermen and also clearly shows what the failure of environmental assessments in infrastructure projects means.

“The permit was granted without a serious examination of possible alternatives – which have long been state of the art and are used by other terminal ships – and the destruction of a unique protected area was therefore lightly accepted. There was not even a hearing to show possible alternatives. We won’t let that get away, but will continue to stand up for the protection of the Wadden Sea and for compliance with environmental protection, if necessary also in court.”