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17 Jun 2022

Global Witness

Germany: BASF's subsidiary, gas & oil co. Wintershall, keeps profiting from Russian operations

See all tags Allegations

Germany’s BASF – the world’s largest chemical company – wants to look like it is doing the right thing. On the 27th of April, with the brutality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine then undeniable, the company said it would wind down its non-food businesses in Russia and Belarus by the beginning of July 2022.

Evidently, no-one told BASF subsidiary Wintershall Dea (Wintershall), which profits from being one of Germany’s main suppliers of Russian gas.

One day after BASF’s announcement, Wintershall said it would keep drilling for Russian fossil fuels in partnership with Gazprom – a trade that made the company €400 million between January and March. Since the start of the year, Wintershall has also continued to transport Russian gas into and across Germany. Using German government gas prices, Global Witness estimates this gas to be worth over €14 billion.

A list of evidence used in this brief can be found here and all of the calculations used is here.

At the same time, BASF’s CEO has lobbied hard to keep the flow of Russian gas into Germany, warning of catastrophe if the supply is stopped. [...]

Responding to a Global Witness’ request for comment, BASF stated that Wintershall was continuing its Russian operations because it was contributing to European gas supplies and halting the supply would harm the German economy. The company also said that it had stopped planning any new Russian projects and that “no more capital will be transferred to Russia.”

Also responding, Wintershall condemned the war in Ukraine and said it had stopped new projects and payments into Russia. But the company said it would continue operations because it had a responsibility to its staff and to Europe’s energy supply, and that if it pulled out “billions in assets would fall to the Russian state.”

According to Wintershall, “This is a dilemma a lot of businesses find themselves in. And there is unfortunately no solution to this dilemma.” [...]

As a company that has helped Russia’s gas industry expand, helped Kremlin-owned Gazprom produce gas, perpetuated Germany’s Russian gas addiction, and profits from its Russian operations, BASF now has a particular responsibility to help the Ukrainian people. As such, BASF should:

  • Immediately close down and exit Wintershall’s gas and oil operations in Russia.
  • Immediately donate all profits made from the production and transport of Russian gas and oil since the invasion to the Ukrainian victims of Russia’s war.
  • Work with the German government to end the importation and transmission of all Russian gas into the country as soon as possible.

At the same time, the German government, which has a responsibly to manage a rapid, just transition away from Russian gas, should:

  • Work with other EU member states to impose an immediate ban on the importation of Russian oil still allowed into Europe, and all Russian gas.
  • Urge all German companies to immediately stop gas and oil operations in Russia.
  • Work with other EU member states to phase out fossil gas and oil from all sources in line with climate targets.
  • Ensure that the most vulnerable German consumers are given help to ensure the transition from Russian gas does not increase energy poverty in the country.