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Global Economy

Companies brace themselves for gas supply stop

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) warns of production slumps as a result of a possible gas shortage. "Politics and business must use the summer months to save gas and fill the storage tanks before the upcoming heating season," said BDI President Siegfried Russwurm of the dpa news agency. "In the tense situation, every day gained and every cubic meter of gas saved counts."

Eckhard Göske, policy spokesman for industry, research, innovation and information technology at the NRW Chamber of Industry and Commerce, reports that companies across all sectors are of the utmost concern. "If the energy costs remain so high and there are supply bottlenecks, there is a risk of job losses and even entire companies," Göske fears.

Aluminum industry massively affected

The aluminum industry in particular is very concerned. The supply of gas is of fundamental importance for the aluminum industry and its production processes. "Before our products reach the customer, they undergo multiple heat treatment during production: for melting during recycling, for heating up for further mechanical processing and for homogenization. These processes require a high degree of precision and are tailored to the use of gas furnaces," explains Hinrich Mahlmann, President of Aluminum Germany.

Nine out of ten companies in the German aluminum industry would not be able to switch to another energy source in the short term. In half of the companies, production would come to a standstill if the gas supply were cut by up to 30 percent, and in another quarter this would be the case with a cut of 30 to 40 percent, according to the association.

According to Mählmann, the companies are preparing for a worst-case scenario. Contingency plans describe which equipment must be shut down first and then sequentially. However, this is only possible to a certain extent, after which the companies have to be closed.

Companies are ready to save gas

As a chemical company, BASF is also dependent on natural gas. There is also an emergency plan at the Ludwigshafen site. The company could still handle half of the normal delivery quantity. Then the machines would continue to be operated with reduced load, according to a spokeswoman. However, the company expects gas prices to rise sharply as utilities buy more gas. BASF is doing everything it can to reduce dependence on fossil energy, especially gas, even faster.

Henkel sees itself prepared for a gas crisis. One is already well positioned thanks to a “diversified energy portfolio”, but the company cannot currently do without gas. The power plant in Düsseldorf runs mainly with gas, and the operation should actually be switched to 100 percent from autumn. Now Henkel wants to use more coal or oil. A third of the gas can be saved in this way. However, one is still waiting for the approval of the Federal Network Agency.

Colder living temperatures and higher additional payments

The housing company Vonovia tries to save gas by optimizing the heating systems. According to the company, about eight percent is possible. "In order to save as much gas as possible, we will gradually introduce a night-time lowering of the heating temperature for the gas central heating systems in our stock for the coming heating season," writes spokeswoman Jana Kaminski. "We reduce the heating output between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Our tenants can heat as usual during the day and in the evening," says Kaminski. The hot water supply is not affected.

Vonovia is trying to switch to sustainable energy sources. At the same time, many apartments would be energetically renovated. Tenants will probably have to pay back payments. When asked, Marko Rosteck from Deutsche Wohnen writes that the advance payments for heating costs must be increased by a flat rate of 40 percent in the course of the utility bills.

Companies expect flexibility and more transparency

The automotive industry is also trying to prepare for a possible gas shortage. BMW has examined all production sites in Germany and Austria to see what options there are for reducing the use of gas.

BMW spokesman Frank Wienstroth gives an example: "The BMW Group operates gas-powered combined heat and power plants at many of its locations. We could also compensate for the amount of electricity generated by these plants on the market by purchasing additional electricity from outside this would be feasible and what the possible implications might be."

The Federal Network Agency would have to issue the appropriate approvals for this. BDI President Russwurm complains that this often takes too long: "The federal government should urgently simplify and speed up the approvals for conversions, for example by switching from the approval requirement to the notification requirement." Association President Mählmann from Aluminum Germany is demanding more clarity and planning security from politicians.

"Unfortunately, the Federal Network Agency acts in a rather non-transparent manner. Saving energy is one side of the coin, procurement and distribution is the other. There is no information on the state of preparation, on gas quantities, on prioritization, there is no scenario planning," complains Mählmann. A perspective is so important right now.

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