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German Commodities Sector /

Crude Oil and Gas

Crude Oil

Interesting facts about crude oil

Germany covers about 2% of its crude oil demand with domestic production.

The Mittelplate/Dieksand oilfield in the Wadden Sea contains some 25 million tons, which amounts to roughly one third of the extractable German crude oil deposits.

Crude oil and natural gas are created by deposits of large amounts of micro-organisms, mainly algae.

On average, crude oil deposits are found at a depth of around 1.5 km. Technical progress, however, has made it possible to open up oilfields at a depth of 5000 meters (m) and more.

More than 22,000 drilling operations have been carried out since crude oil and natural gas production began in Germany.


Crude oil has been industrially extracted in Germany for more than 150 years. The successful oil well in Wietze near Celle in 1858/59 is generally recognised as being one of the first in the world. Crude oil production in Germany peaked in 1968 with an annual production of around 8 million tons. Annual production in 2015 amounted to 2.4 million tons. Proven and potential crude oil reserves in Germany are estimated to be around 34 million tons as of 01.01.2016.

Economic importance

Current oil production in Germany amounts to about 2 % of the German annual consumption. The value of the extracted petroleum is about €860 million for 2015; in terms of economic importance, this is the third most important source of fossil fuels in Germany, behind natural gas and brown coal. In a 2015 international comparison of crude oil-producing countries, Germany was in 58th place (26th in 1970). In 2015, 3,950 employees were employed in oil and natural gas extraction in Germany. 1 .


There were 50 crude oil fields in Germany in 2015. These fields extract oil by means of some 1,000 production wells in drilling installations (onshore) and production platforms (offshore). In 2015, the oilfields of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony yielded almost 90% of the total German production. The remaining 10% was mainly produced in the Rhineland-Palatinate, together with very low production levels in Bavaria, Hamburg, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The largest German crude oil field is the Mittelplate/Dieksand in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea (Wattenmeer) National Park. It has been developed since 1987 by a drilling and production island and by oil well facilities on the mainland. This oilfield accounted for more than half of Germany’s total crude oil production in 2015.

Crude oil is a fossil energy source. It is primarily used as a fuel for vehicular transportation and to heat buildings. Crude oil is also used in the chemical industry for e.g. the manufacture of plastics.

Natural gas

Interesting facts about natural gas

In contrast to coal and oil, natural gas has only been used as an energy source relatively recently.

Germany has an active offshore gas field in the German Bight.

Natural gas is extracted on this one-hectare operating facility and supplied to some 15,000 households.

Natural gas has been extracted from gas fields in Germany for the past 100 years.

8% of the demand for natural gas in Germany is covered by domestic production.

95% of the natural gas is extracted in Lower Saxony.


In 1910, natural gas was found in Neuengamme (which is a district of Hamburg today) when drilling for water. The industrial production of natural gas started in 1913. However, natural gas production in Germany remained minimal until the end of the 1960s, with only a 1% share of the primary energy consumption in Germany (West). The oil crises of the 1970s focused increased attention on the consumption of energy and the need for the development of energy sources. Domestic production grew with the discovery of large gas deposits on the German-Dutch border and the increasing conversion of town and coke-oven gas to natural gas. This was accompanied by a steady expansion of the gas infrastructure (from 12 to 20 billion m³(Vn) of raw gas between 1970 and 2005). In 2005, domestic natural gas production covered up to 25 % of domestic gas consumption, but production has been declining since then: in 2016, it stood at around 8 billion m³(Vn), some 6 % of domestic gas consumption. The proven and probable reserves of natural gas are also in decline, with a total of 74 billion m³ as of January 1st, 2016. This means that the static range of the German natural gas reserves amounts to 8 years. The decline in natural gas reserves and production is mainly due to the increasing depletion of the large deposits and the resulting natural decline in extraction. A legislative process lasting several years was also responsible for the decline in reserves; during this process, the topics discussed included future requirements for the use of fracking technology, which led to new legislation in 2016. There have been no significant new discoveries in recent years.

Economic importance

Germany ranks number 43 in the table of all natural gas-producing countries. The country’s share of global gas production amounted to 0.3 % in 2015. Natural gas is of relatively significant economic importance in relation to other extracted natural resources such as lignite. The value of the natural gas extracted in 2015 amounted to €2 billion. Natural gas accounts for one-fifth of the total value of the natural resources extracted in Germany. 3.950 persons were employed in the oil and gas sectors in 2015 2 .


95% of German natural gas was extracted in Lower Saxony in 2015. Other Federal States (Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia and Bavaria) contribute only marginally to the total production. 476 production wells extract the natural gas on 77 gas fields. The A6/B4 gas field in the ‘Entenschnabel’ (duckbill) – an economic zone in the German Bight (North Sea) – is the only offshore gas field. Like crude oil, natural gas occurs in underground deposits. Seismic surveys and exploration drilling are also used for both crude oil and natural gas exploration. Gas extraction takes place through a borehole stabilised with cement and steel and a riser pipe is then inserted through the hole.


As a fossil energy source, natural gas is mainly used to heat residential and commercial premises, to supply heat for thermal processes in trade and industry (e.g. in large bakeries, brick factories, cement factories, foundries and smelters) and to generate electrical power; it is used as fuel for ships and motor vehicles. Natural gas also has many other significant uses – as a reactant in chemical processes (e.g. for ammonia synthesis in the Haber-Bosch process (nitrogen fertiliser)), for iron ore reduction in the blast furnace process and in the production of hydrogen.

1 This data contains only employment figures for companies subject to mining law.

2 This data contains only employment figures for companies subject to mining law.