Gas, oil, lithium, steel – Germany is so dependent on other countries

Gas, Oil, Lithium, Steel
Germany is very dependent on abroad

If supply chains are disrupted or if Germany cuts itself off from the commodity market, as is currently the case with the war in Ukraine, the national economy will stumble. The most important sectors of industry are heavily dependent on the supply of raw materials from the world market. An overview.

For decades, Germany has benefited from free world trade, which has provided access to cheap commodities and raw materials. The consequences of dependence on foreign supplies were already evident in the corona pandemic. Supply chains have broken, important raw materials have become scarce. The war in Ukraine further exacerbated the “Made in Germany” situation. An overview of the situation in the most important sectors:

Machine industry

There are many different raw materials and primary products in automobiles. With light metals Aluminum And Magnesium China and Russia, for example, have particularly high world market shares and the Russian Rusal group is the largest single supplier of aluminum. The Russian Federation is equally powerful as a supplier of precious metals Palladium And platinumneeded for catalytic converters.

Also it is Stahl an indispensable resource in the construction of cars and engines. Conventional iron ore often comes from various large producers such as China, Brazil, Australia or India. In the case of special steels with chromium, titanium or nickel components, the dependence on certain sources may be greater. With Norilsk Nickel, Russia has one of the leading nickel producers.

Nickel it is also used for numerous types of batteries as well as for elements Cobalt, Mangano And copper. In the battery cells of electric cars, current flows through the charged particles (ions) of the alkali metal Lithiumwhich currently hails from Australia, China or Chile. A number of other metals or metal compounds are used for batteries and power electronics in vehicles.

A product of the central supplier are semiconductor modules and microchips silicon– or Germanium-Base. They have been scarce in many places since the Corona crisis. In this case, the European industry, as in the case of battery cells, wants to become more independent from the previously dominant Asian manufacturers. Furthermore, cars without numerous interior plastics are unthinkable. For the production of plastics, blends of oil and natural gas are required.

mechanic industry

The range of products ranges from agricultural machinery to forklifts and machines for the food industry. The need for preliminary products and the dependence on supplier countries are therefore very different. An important material is Stahl, which many companies do not buy directly from the manufacturer, but through wholesalers. The bottlenecks in the steel market following the war in Ukraine are clearly felt by the machine builders. “Companies that need steel for an ongoing project are particularly affected. In some cases, a price or delivery time is no longer even given,” reports Bianca Illner of the mechanical engineering association VDMA.

They are also essential for many machine builders microchip, which are in the control elements and often come from China. According to a VDMA survey, as many as three-quarters of companies are putting their supply chains to the test after their experiences with the pandemic. For example, they cater to a wider network of suppliers. A different geographic distribution of suppliers also plays a role in many companies.

chemical and pharmaceutical

The German chemical and pharmaceutical industry consumes enormous quantities Gas And the oil: According to the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), it uses 2.8 million tons of natural gas as a raw material and 99.3 terawatt hours of natural gas to generate steam and electricity every year. In addition, the industry needs over 14 million tons Rohbenzin as a raw material. There is therefore great concern about an energy embargo against Russia. “Across companies, crisis management teams and teams are now working daily to examine the specific energy supply situation, to analyze various scenarios for a reduction in natural gas supply, and to make preparations,” said L ‘CEO of VCI Wolfgang Große Entrup. The association points out that energy consumption per unit of product has halved since 1990.

According to the latest data from 2020, the most important chemical importing countries were the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Russia ranks 18th with a 1.3% share. Non-fossil raw materials in the value chain are important for building a climate-neutral economy, such as rare earths, lithium, nickel or phosphorus. The industry depends on China (rare earths), Chile and Bolivia (lithium) and Kazakhstan (phosphorus).

electrical industry

The German electrical and digital industry is closely involved in the international circulation of goods. Last year, exports worth € 225 billion were offset by imports worth € 222 billion, according to industry association ZVEI. At around € 80 billion, this includes primary products, most of which come from the EU (31 billion), Asia (24 billion) and the United States (5 billion). Preliminary products from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine amounted to less than a billion euros, so direct war losses are of little consequence.

The strong dependence on semiconductors from Asian factories. ZVEI supports financing projects to increase the production of these components in Germany and Europe. As early as November, 70% of companies reported in an association survey that they wanted to diversify their supply chains for raw materials. In addition, 65% wanted to expand their warehouse. The situation has worsened again with the war in Ukraine: currently, more than 60 percent expect delivery problems, among other things, of metals, wood and chemicals to worsen again.


According to the working group on energy balances, around 71% of energy needs came from abroad in 2021. TO mineral oil the import share was 98%. natural gas 95 percent. The most important national energy sources were renewable energies and Brown coal. coal it is no longer financed in Germany and must be 100% imported. “Germany is heavily dependent on Russian energy imports,” the Federal Ministry of Economy said in early April. 35% of oil consumption, 50% of hard coal consumption and 55% of natural gas deliveries came from there in 2021.

Due to the war in Ukraine, Germany now wants to become independent of Russian energy supplies. In the case of hard coal, this should be achieved by the autumn and in the case of oil by the end of 2022. Economy Minister Robert Habeck hopes that Russian natural gas will become largely independent “by mid-2024”.


Germany gets its construction raw materials such as Sand And Choose or natural stones as well as various industrial minerals such as rock salt or quartz sand from local warehouses. “Even on a global scale, Germany is still an important mining country,” according to the Federal Ministry of Economy. Germany was in 2019 all over the world I dared the third largest, with rock salt the fourth largest and with Kalisalz the fifth producer.

For metals and many industrial minerals, however, Germany is heavily dependent on imports. For example, iron ore for German cast iron production is imported exclusively. According to the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), the demand for iron alloys with chromium, manganese or molybdenum for the stainless steel industry is almost entirely covered by imports. However, dependence on imports is significantly reduced by recycling and purchasing scrap and waste.

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