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ONS: Wintershall boss spells out critical value of North Sea to Europe

From left: Mike Tholen, Martin Bachmann , Astley Hastings, Paul Warwick at Offshore Europe 2013
From left: Mike Tholen, Martin Bachmann , Astley Hastings, Paul Warwick at Offshore Europe 2013

The North Sea is of critical importance to Europe’s energy security and transition and must be nurtured, the head of exploration of German petroleum company Wintershall has warned.

Speaking at Offshore Northern Seas and notwithstanding current tensions with Russia, Martin Bachmann said energy security for Europe Europe has traditionally always begun on the continent’s own doorstep.

“But how can Europe secure its supply of oil and gas long-term,” he asked.

“For this two things matter, firstly for producing countries there must be long-term certainty.

“Future security of supply will be assured by making investments today. If this doesn’t happen, we could struggle to produce enough oil and gas in the future.

“The nuclear industry thinks in decades, but all too often policymakers think only in legislative periods.

“We must use our own resources in Europe efficiently. After all, security of supply begins on our own doorstep.”

According to Bachmann, around 50% of gas demand today is still produced in Europe and the North Sea plays a crucial role in this. Nine out of every ten cubic metres of natural gas used in Europe comes from countries bordering the North Sea.

He continued: “Energy transition will only succeed with natural gas from the North Sea, and especially from Norway.

“And when it comes to oil, the North Sea also plays a crucial role for Europe’s energy security and, again, Norway in a very particular way.

“We still have not exhausted the potential here … nowhere near. That’s why I believe that the strategic importance of the North Sea for the EU will grow further.

“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, said Bachmann, adding that 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, almost 30% of its gas imports came from the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

Moreover, Bachmann said that Germans now understand this.

A recent survey conducted by the public opinion research institute forsa and commissioned by Wintershall shows: 78% of Germans would favour Norway as a reliable partner to make up for currently falling gas production in the EU; 62% named Canada, followed by the US (45%) and Russia and the Middle East (38% each).

Bachmann argued too that gas is the ideal partner for renewables but that coal is gaining ground again whereas natural gas is increasingly coming under the pressure.

“Because of coal, CO2 emissions are increasing again in Germany. Moreover, the economic consequences are no less dramatic.

“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,” he said.

It was pointed out that the US, for example, saved 740million tons of CO2 between 2007 and 2012 by using more natural gas, because coal is being replaced by gas.

Furthermore, America is enjoying a robust re-industrialisation. Energy prices have fallen more than 50% in the last five years thanks to the production of natural gas … shale gas.

“The American economy is profiting from this and so is the environment,” claimed Bachmann. “That can and should set an example for Europe.

“If we replace coal-generated power with natural gas technology across the entirety of Europe, we will be able to save as much CO2 a the whole of France currently emits.

“Natural gas offers immense potential for cost efficient climate protection.

“We should not also lose sight of the fact that we also need oil. As an indispensable raw material that is much too valuable to burn.

“Crude oil provides the basis for modern, highly efficient industrial goods. There would be no iPads without oil, no pharmaceuticals, no Bazooka balls for Germans to win the World Cup.

“The age of fossil fuels is far from over. That is true for Europe and true worldwide.”

This is born out by the most recent International Energy Agency forecast that global demand for energy will rise around a third by 2035 and 75% of this demand will then be met by fossil fuels, primarily oil and gas.

“Together, oil and gas provide the backbone of a modern, competitive economy now and in the future,” added Bachmann.

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