On August 3, the Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher was proud to announce that France had managed to fill its natural gas stocks to 80%. The objective of 100% by November 1, 2022 therefore now seems achievable. But will it be a reliable response to winter consumption peaks and the threat of a gas shortage?
The storage race started by the 27 States of the European Union
L’Russian invasion in Ukraine disrupted the world order and put the European Union on alert on energy issues. The event not only blew up the price of gas and electricity. But above all, it raises fears of reprisals from Russia, following the European sanctions imposed. The country threatens to cut its gas exports from the fall. Note that Russia exports almost half of the gas consumed by the EU.
On July 26, the countries of the European Union agreed to commit to a protection plan, with a view to dealing with a possible gas shortage. The goal? Reduce their gas consumption by 15% between August 2022 and March 2023.
Also, each on their own, the 27 countries of the European Union are trying to reconstitute their gas reserves exhausted by the winter period. France, of which only 17% of the gas supply comes from Russia, is not the country most dependent on the Soviet giant. But it must nevertheless lend itself to the game of storage, so as not to be overwhelmed by possible sanctions on the part of Russia.
“We are now at 80% filling of our gas stocks strategic, we are ahead of our objectives, which means that we will fulfill 100% before November 1, which was our objective.
Good news for France, which will reach its maximum natural gas storage capacity. The country can store up to 130 TWh natural gas, “which represents a little less than a third of its annual gas consumption, which stands at around 450 TWh”, points out the Energy Regulation Commission.
Usually, in the fall, the filling rate of gas stocks is around 85% of capacity. This year, the global context has forced suppliers to strengthen their reserves to face the complicated winter ahead.
Gas storages do not guarantee winter protection
France is one of the European countries that is doing the best on the issue of filling gas stocks.
In November 2021, France had filled its reserves to 94.5% while the European average was 75%. As of August 4, 2022, it is one of the five EU countries, which have achieved the largest gas storage capacity, according to data from theAggregated Gas Storage Inventory (AGSI).
With 11 sites for conserving natural gas reserves, the country benefits from excellent infrastructure to respond to a energy crisis. However, this may not be enough to avoid load shedding during the coming winter.
This is what Agnès Pannier-Runacher tried to explain, during her announcement about the current energy situation. Even with a large amount of gas, if the winter consumption demand increases, the situation could be tricky.
“You can have a particularly severe cold day, and then you can’t pump – for pipe size reasons – all the gas that has been made.”
In short, this means that the increase in reserves does not exempt the French from the famous energy sobriety claimed. The best way toavoid blackouts is to lower its energy consumption, suggests the Minister of Energy Transition.
She also reiterated the government’s call to adopt “small daily gestures”, mentioned by Olivier Veran a few days earlier, with a view to reduce consumption. A message that she reserved not only for citizens but also for large energy consumers.
“The big players, the administrations, the companies, must reduce their consumption”, hammered Agnès Pannier-Runacher. She adds that it is necessary “to make sure to reduce their consumption of gas and electricity (…) the two systems are linked”.
Storing but above all diversifying the gas supply
Gas storage makes it possible to ensure a transition in the event that Russia completely cuts off its exports. But it will not make it possible to replace the lack that the stoppage of Russian gas may represent. This is why France is already striving to rebalance its sources of supply by turning to other exporting countries.
TotalEnergies has just been authorized to develop a floating regasification unit project whose mobile structure will be moored in the port of Le Havre. TotalEnergies LNG tankers will then be able to deliver gas in liquid state. The multinational will then be responsible for transforming the liquid gas into usable energy. The hydrocarbon will this time be exported by countries such as Norway, Egypt and Algeria. He may also come from Qatar, the United States, Nigeria or Angola.
It is the whole of the European Union which has started a supply diversification policy. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen is currently negotiating with Azerbaijan, in order to double this country’s gas exports to the EU in the coming years. Italy, for its part, is turning to Algeria to ask for an increase in gas deliveries.