Germany's liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project at Stade said it would in the coming weeks begin testing market appetite for ammonia as a way to transport hydrogen, as the country's efforts to end reliance on Russian pipeline gas gather pace.
The quest for alternatives has included focusing on hydrogen, which when produced using renewable energy can help the transition to a lower carbon economy.
Germany, however, would need to import much of its hydrogen needs and the low density of the gas makes transportation over long distances complicated unless a carrier, such as ammonia is used.
It is so far unclear whether ammonia, another carrier or just shipping hydrogen in liquid form will win out.
At the same time, Germany's efforts to increase infrastructure have also met resistance.
Utility RWE said last week it wanted no operational part in a second state-leased LNG terminal in the Baltic Sea near the Ruegen island and the Lubmin mainland port.
Pending the provision of fixed terminals, Germany is using floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs) to help replace the relatively cheap piped Russian gas supply on which it previously relied.
Three FSRUs are working at Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbuettel and Lubmin after Germany arranged their charter and onshore connections in record time.
Six FSRUs are due to be online spread over four sites by the end of 2023.
Utility Uniper last December launched Germany's first FSRU operations at the deep-water port on the North Sea.
It plans to add a land-based ammonia reception terminal and cracker in the second half of this decade.
Tree Energy Solutions (TES) will operate a second FSRU from later in 2023 for five years, and plans, later on, to convert the operations to clean gases.
The FSRU Neptune, privately chartered by Deutsche ReGas, early this year began LNG reception activities at the Baltic Sea port.
The gas is delivered to another storage vessel, the Seapeak Hispania, further away, and shuttled to Lubmin in a set-up taking account of shallow water and aiming to protect local wildlife.
ReGas holds long-term supply deals with French TotalEnergies and trading group MET.
The region is also due to receive a state-leased FSRU leased by the government by the end of 2023. Some local residents, however, fear tourism will be disrupted and are trying to block the project.
RWE said it could be a service provider to the government, but not an operator of the FSRU.
The Brunsbuettel FSRU, operated by RWE's trading arm on the North Sea coast, received its first cargo in February and started regasification in March, before becoming operational in mid-April.
It is the forerunner of a land-based LNG facility that could start operations at the end of 2026, when an adjacent ammonia terminal could also start up. State bank KfW, Gasunie and RWE are stakeholders and Shell has committed itself to sizeable purchases.
The inland port on the river Elbe in January started work on a landing pier for an FSRU, to be ready in the winter of 2023/24.
Project firm Hanseatic Energy Hub (HEH) also plans a land-based terminal where it has allocated regasification capacity that could be operational in 2027, including volumes for state-controlled Sefe and utility EnBW.
It said on Tuesday, it would begin sounding out the market to determine whether the longer-term plans should be based largely on ammonia to be reconverted into clean hydrogen.
It identified a construction consortium on April 18.
HEH is backed by gas network company Fluxys, investment firm Partners Group, logistics group Buss and chemicals company Dow.
A final investment decision is expected in mid-2023.
EnBW, which is also a buyer at Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbuettel, said it would double annual purchases to 6 billion cubic meters.
(Reuters - Reporting by Vera EckertEditing by Friederike Heine, Kirsten Donovan, Peter Graff and Barbara Lewis)