Spatial planning

How is the use of the German North Sea planned and coordinated?

The German North Sea is used intensively. Uses include, for example, shipping, fishing, sand and gravel mining, and electricity production in wind turbines. In addition, large areas of the German North Sea are designated as nature reserves as well as priority areas for porpoises, for example.

Spatial planning in the marine area takes into account such different utilization interests and protection claims. Spatial planning aims to minimize existing conflicts of use and to prevent future problems. In addition, political goals, e.g. for the expansion of renewable energies, must be taken into account. A special feature of marine spatial planning is the three-dimensionality of marine space, i.e. the utilization possibilities and protection requirements of air, water and seabed must be taken into account. Marine spatial planning for the German seas (EEZ) is coordinated by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH). A new spatial plan for the EEZ came into force in 2021. It does not take into account various possible uses of the deeper subsurface, such as CO2 or H2 storage, which could also be carried out at different depths at one location.

How can CO2 storage be integrated into spatial planning for the German North Sea?

Due to the already existing, intensive use of the German North Sea and the existence of nature conservation or marine protection areas, potential CO2 storage sites have to be integrated into a spatial planning for the marine area. The GEOSTOR project investigates how this integration can be done. The investigations will be carried out exemplarily for the two GEOSTOR sites (geology).

For this purpose, it will first be analyzed which protection claims and further utilization interests exist in these areas or could exist in the future, if, for example, further uses of the deep subsurface are to take place there. Subsequently, possibilities will be worked out how a CO2 storage facility could be considered in a spatial planning for the marine area and how any competing uses that may arise can be dealt with. In doing so, the results of the other GEOSTOR topic areas will be used. Furthermore, strategies for mitigating or resolving the conflicts will be developed. These could include, for example, minimizing noise impacts on marine mammals through the use of new monitoring techniques or “floor-by-floor” uses of the marine area and its deeper subsurface.


Heike Rütters (BGR)

Alexander Proelß (UHH)


Further Information:

BSH – Meeresraumplanung


Bartel S & Janssen G (2016) Raumplanung im Untergrund unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Umweltschutzes. Natur und Recht 38, 237-246.

Erbguth W (2011) Unterirdische Raumordnung – zur raumordnungsrechtlichen Steuerung untertägiger Vorhaben, Zeitschrift für Umweltrecht, 121-126.

UBA (2015) Unterirdische Raumplanung – Vorschläge des Umweltschutzes zur Verbesserung der über- und untertägigen Informationsgrundlagen, zur Ausgestaltung des Planungsinstrumentariums und zur nachhaltigen Lösung von Nutzungskonflikten. Teilvorhaben 2: Planerische und rechtliche Aspekte, UBA-Texte 57/2015.