With well-stocked gas reserves, France could do without Russian gas

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France says it is in a more “favorable” situation than its neighbors. It relies in part on gas stocks being filled to capacity. In addition, France will be building a new LNG terminal next year.

The Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, even estimated on Thursday evening that France could do without Russian gas if the LNG tankers ensure the planned deliveries and if the stocks are replenished.

“In the absolute and as we benefit from liquefied natural gas, we could do without Russian gas, this assumes that all LNG tankers arrive on time and that we can comfortably fill our strategic storage,” she said, in an interview with BFM Business.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had explained that France expected to fill its gas reserves to nearly 100% by the fall. In addition, it was going to acquire a new floating LNG terminal next year to ensure its supply.

Operators are currently required to fill these reserves to only 85% by November 1. Gas storage is 59% full
currently, compared to 46% at the same time last year. In concrete terms, the government will ask storage operators to buy gas themselves to fill the reserves, in addition to the purchases made by gas suppliers.

“We will launch a new LNG terminal to increase our capacity to supply ourselves with gas that is not dependent on Russia,” said Borne.

This new floating LNG terminal (FSRU), installed in Le Havre and supported by TotalEnergies, is due to come from China and be connected to the Normandy port for commissioning in September 2023. The government is aiming for a start of work early this fall so that the barge will be available in the winter of 2023/24.

– More favorable” situation –

“In the absolute, (the substitution set up) is enough, but it also depends on our European neighbors”, who may need gas “and that we will want to help” in such a case, stressed Ms. Pannier-Runacher. And “if we have a very cold winter, we will need to draw more on our natural gas stocks,” she noted.

The Minister of Energy Transition insisted on European solidarity in terms of gas supply. It reaffirms the support that France will provide to its neighbors if necessary:

Well, if tomorrow Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia need gas and if we are in a position to supply them, then, of course, we must supply them,” she said.

“We are taking the maximum number of measures right away, in anticipation, to avoid being in difficulties possibly in the future” and avoid
to have to force manufacturers to reduce their electricity consumption,” continued Ms. Pannier-Runacher.

Germany, much more dependent on Russia, activated on Thursday the “alert level” of the plan to guarantee its gas supply. Rationing measures are to be expected.

“The situation is much more favorable in France” than in other European countries, Borne said. The government will also launch three working groups to improve energy efficiency in the administration, businesses and establishments open to the public.

“The goal is a roadmap that allows us to reduce energy consumption by 10% compared to our usual benchmark,” said Pannier-Runacher.

Ms. Borne had also confirmed that the “tariff shield”, which protects households from soaring costs, would be maintained.


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