In 1971, the company was commissioned to create the caverns for storing oil in the Etzel salt dome and to operate the above-ground facilities on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany.
As early as 1973, the decision in favour of a strategic oil reserve had been confirmed to be the right one. When the first oil crisis occurred as a result of the increase in crude oil prices, this also led to an economic recession and short-term Sunday driving bans. Even in the event of further political crises in the Middle East and natural disasters in the production regions in the coming decades, the crude oil reserve in Etzel would have been able to secure a continuous energy supply in each case. Ensuring security of supply for energy raw materials will again be an issue in 2022.
Back to our history: In 1993 the company was privatised, in 2005 the cavern operator took over ownership of the cavern facility and developed it to its current importance. Since 2007, the site has developed into one of the largest oil and gas storage sites in Europe. In addition to the 75 caverns that currently exist, a further 24 storage caverns can be created in the Etzel salt dome.
TENANTS OF THE CAVERNS
Tenants of the caverns are well-known energy trading companies for gas and oil as well as oil storage organisations from various European countries. In Germany as well as in Europe, there are hardly any comparably favourable conditions for the construction of caverns for the safe storage of energy raw materials. On the gas side, the 51 gas caverns at the Etzel site with a storage capacity of around 4.3 billion cubic metres of working gas are leased to renowned European gas supply and trading companies, which own the four above-ground gas operating facilities on site. These contracts extend well into the 2040s. With more than ten million cubic metres that can be stored long-term in 24 caverns at Etzel, STORAG ETZEL is one of the largest crude oil storage facilities in Europe. The crude oil is used by oil stockpiling associations of various European countries such as Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands as a national crisis stockpile.
ENERGY. SUPPLY. SECURITY.
Today, the Etzel cavern storage facility not only guarantees Germany's security of supply, but also helps to meet the energy needs of neighbouring European countries. Thanks to its strategically favourable location and good connection to Europe's oil and gas infrastructure, it represents a practical model of success for European cooperation.
Underground storage of the energy carriers crude oil and natural gas has proven to be an extremely cost-efficient, operationally safe, flexible and environmentally friendly way for large-volume storage. The gas infrastructure at the site is excellently connected to a total of four supraregional pipelines, the NETRA (injection and withdrawal facility), Emden-Etzel pipeline and the Bunde-Etzel pipeline (BEP). The BEP was last completed in 2011 and connects the cavern facility over 60 kilometres to the Dutch gas grid.
By the end of 2022, another pipeline (Wilhelmshavener Anbindungsleitung / WAL) will be built from Wilhelmshaven to the long-distance gas grid near Etzel. As early as this winter, around 7.5 billion cubic metres of gas per year can be landed via Wilhelmshaven and fed into the long-distance gas grid. In the future, up to 20 billion cubic metres of gas per year will be transported via this pipeline. That alone would replace 40 per cent of the annual Russian gas deliveries of recent years.
H2CAST ETZEL: ETZEL CAVERN STORAGE TO BE "H2-READY!"
The Etzel site is ready for the future: in addition to storing fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, renewable energies can also be stored in caverns, for example by converting surplus electricity into hydrogen (H2) or synthetic natural gas (SNG = methane). The operator STORAG ETZEL has already successfully converted oil caverns to gas storage in its operating history. In the context of the energy transition and decarbonisation, the conversion of underground storage facilities from gas and oil to hydrogen is being investigated.
STORAG ETZEL has launched a promising project in this context with the research project "H2CAST Etzel". With H2CAST Etzel, which has been funded by the state of Lower Saxony since 2022, and a development project based on it, as well as participation in the "H2-Wegweiser Niedersachsen" project, the cavern operator aims to advance research and development of large-scale underground hydrogen storage and at the same time prove the suitability of the salt caverns in Etzel as large-volume hydrogen storage facilities.
H2CAST stands for H2 CAvern Storage Transition, i.e. the rededication of the existing caverns and facilities in Etzel for the necessary future storage of hydrogen as a building block of a future energy system. Unique to the Etzel cavern site is the industrial scalability of the underground storage and above-ground facilities. Making the Etzel caverns "H2-ready!" is our goal! Because the energy transition needs storage when H2 production and, if necessary, import and market do not match.
Our advantages in hydrogen storage:
- Etzel is the leading cavern site in north-western Europe for gas and oil,
- caverns are fundamentally suitable for gaseous H2 storage,
- the Etzel site has an optimal geographical location,
- the connection to supra-regional gas pipelines is available, these can be converted to H2,
- the permits for the short-term expansion of storage capacities are available,
- STORAG ETZEL has long-term planning security.