Germany must strengthen rather than abandon the liquefied natural gas (LNG) capability built last year to retain energy diversity in the face of continued fragility of supply, a senior economy ministry official told an industry event on Tuesday.

Three floating storage and reception units (FSRUs) at the Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbuettel and Lubmin terminals served to attract much-needed LNG shipments to supplement pipeline deliveries from the rest of Europe after Russia turned off the gas taps amid political hostilities around the war in Ukraine.

Berlin has since had to defend their continued use and full utilisation even as gas price declines and lower demand highlight the risk of the facilties becoming stranded fossil fuel investments unsuitable for a carbon-free future.

"It is not easy to make that clear when the feeling of a crisis is no longer existent," Philipp Steinberg, head of the economic stabilisation and energy security unit in the ministry, said at a Handelsblatt newspaper industry conference.

"But we are not where we should be with the terminals," he added, referring to unfilled capacity at two of the FSRUs.

Steinberg emphasised that the terminals are considered an integral part of Germany's diversified energy strategy.

"It is self-understood that we also pursue energy efficiency, expanding renewables, diversification, expansion of hydrogen economies," Steinberg said.

Once the LNG terminals are no longer needed, they can be sent to other destinations, hopefully at a profit, he added.

Natural gas is expected to continue to play a transitional role in electricity generation as a post-nuclear Germany also aims to abandon coal while meeting increasing power demand for electrification throughout industry, from heat pumps to cars. (Reporting by Vera Eckert and Riham Alkousaa Editing by David Goodman)