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 produc- tion in Germany peaked in 1968 with an annual production of around 8 million tonnes. Annual produc- tion in 2018 amounted to 2.1 million tonnes. Proven and potential crude oil reserves in Germany were estimated to be around 29 million tonnes as of January 1, 2019.
In 2018, current domestic oil production amounted to around 2% of Germany’s annual consumption.
The country’s share of global crude oil production amounted to approx. 0.2% in 2018. The value of crude oil produced in 2018 was estimated at €783 million. In terms of economic significance, crude oil thus ranked third behind natural gas and lignite in the list of fossil energy raw materials produced in Germany. In a 2018 international comparison of crude oil-producing countries, Germany ranked 58th (1970: 26th). At the end of 2018, 1,642 persons were employed in oil and gas production in Germany.1
In 2018, as in the previous year, 51 oil fields were in production in Germany. These fields extract oil by means of some 988 production wells in drilling installations (onshore) and production platforms (offshore). In 2018, the oilfields of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony yielded almost 90% of the total German production. The remaining production was mainly produced in the Rhineland-Palatinate as well as Bavaria, together with very low production levels in 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 2018.
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.
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 German natural gas consumption. Since then, however, production has declined. In 2018, it amounted to around 6.9 billion m³(Vn) of raw gas, covering only about 6% of domestic natural gas consumption. The safe and probable reserves of natural gas are also declining. These levels amounted to around 54 billion m³(Vn) at the end of 2018. 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. There have been no significant new discoveries in recent years. 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.
Germany ranked 48th in the comparison of all natural gas-producing countries in 2018. The country’s share of global gas production amounted to approx. 0.2% in 2018. 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 2018 amounted to an estimated €1.4 billion. Natural gas accounted for around 11% of the total value of natural resources produced in Germany in 2018. At the end of 2018, 1,501 persons were employed in oil and gas production in Germany.2
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 pro- cess and in the production of hydrogen.
1 BfA 2018
2 LBEG 2018