Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday he will ensure even more imported liquefied natural gas, or LNG, flows into the continent’s economic powerhouse, despite the ongoing energy crisis.
The pair met at Europe’s largest LNG facility, in Zeebrugge, Belgium, for the German-Belgian Energy Summit, where they unveiled plans to double the volume of LNG flowing from Belgium to Germany, and also build a new electricity interconnector between them that will carry vast new supplies of power into Germany and that could be operational by 2028.
Scholz said the increased LNG flow would ensure his country not only has adequate stocks but will be able to export gas to its neighbors.
“We have a shared responsibility that reaches beyond both countries, and we must and will fulfill that,” he said.
The electricity project and additional LNG shipments were demanded by the fast-rising cost of fossil fuel caused largely by supply issues resulting from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Scholz said. The more expensive fuel has led to sharp rises in the rate of inflation throughout Europe, and cost-of-living crises in many nations as wages have failed to keep up.
Belgium had already increased LNG exports to its neighbor 13-fold in recent months, Belgium’s Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten said.
“We can show solidarity with our neighbors, thanks to our unique location and strong interconnections,” he tweeted in reference to Belgium’s coastline and network of LNG pipelines fanning out from its ports.
De Croo said: “This first-ever Belgian-German Energy Summit is of great importance for strengthening our energy independence, accelerating the transition to renewable energy, and ensuring the future of our industry.”
The summit also gave De Croo and Scholz a chance to talk about hydrogen infrastructure and CO2 capture and storage. Van der Straeten and Patrick Graichen, Germany’s state secretary for economic affairs and climate protection, also took part.
Currently, the LNG facility at Zeebrugge handles 15 billion cubic meters of LNG a year imported from around the world, which equates to 15 percent of Europe’s gas imports.
The energy summit was held on the same day as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, published its latest monthly report on the energy sector, in which it said the demand for oil is likely to be stronger than expected this year because of economic growth in Europe and the United States and the reopening of China’s borders.
The Vienna-based organization said global demand is likely to rise by 100,000 barrels a day because major economies showed greater than expected resilience to the impact of higher interest rates and high inflation and because consumer spending has grown.
OPEC said China’s reopening following previous COVID-19 restrictions should have a positive knock-on effect on global growth, with it predicting the global economy will expand by 2.6 percent this year, up from its earlier forecast of 2.5 percent.