FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, Sept 17 (Reuters) - German utility Uniper is ready to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) into the country and distribute it should a terminal be built at Wilhelmshaven, close to its storage facilities, board member Keith Martin told Reuters in an interview.
Martin said the company is in talks with a number of parties including those from the United States and that more concrete news should be announced before the end of the year.
Such plans put Uniper in competition with RWE which said earlier this month it had secured capacity to import LNG at a planned terminal in Brunsbuettel, for which a final investment decision would be made next year.
“We are in talks with interested parties in building a floating liquefied natural gas import terminal at Wilhelmshaven,” Martin said told Reuters. “We are talking to a wide range of people, including the U.S.”
He said he was “confident” that there would be further news about the project in the fourth quarter but that for now, details and third parties were commercially sensitive.
Martin’s comments come a week after Uniper first said it favoured the deepwater port on the North Sea coast compared to RWE’s Brunsbuettel project on the Kiel canal.
His remarks amount to a hardening of an earlier commitment, and will give suppliers, logistics firms and consumers important clues on where to position themselves.
The terminal, a Floating Regasification and Storage Unit (FSRU), would have a throughput capacity of around 10 billion cubic metres a year, or 7.3 million tonnes a year, and accept Q-Max 265,000 cubic metre LNG carriers, Martin said.
Uniper would not invest in the terminal itself but it would become the buyer and distributor of the gas, Martin said.
Ordering FSRUs rather than building onshore LNG facilities is cheaper, quicker and more flexible as the vessel can be moved to a different location when not needed. New FSRUs cost around $200 to $400 million but tankers converted into FSRUs are even cheaper.
Uniper says it favours Wilhelmshaven due to its access to the continental pipeline system and storage facilities such as its own plant at Etzel, giving it advantage over other projects, including another on the inland Elbe river port of Stade.
Wilhelmshaven LNG could also offer low-carbon bunker fuel for ships in the German Bay, ahead of limits on heavily polluting ship fuels imposed by the IMO from 2020.
The debate about German LNG has flared up recently as the government wants to diversify away from pipeline gas arriving from Russia, Norway and the Netherlands.
LNG suppliers including Qatar and the United States have said they are keen on opportunities.
Global gas prices have risen sharply and Europe faces a decline in indigenous production. (Editing by David Evans)