how does France store its gas?

French gas reserves are full, the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) announced on Wednesday 5 October. France thus becomes the third European country after Belgium and Portugal to fill its natural gas storage capacities to the maximum.

The French government has therefore managed to achieve, with a little delay, its objective, set out by its spokesman Olivier Véran on August 30: to fill the gas reserves to 100% by the end of the summer. This increase compared to previous years, due to the war in Ukraine, is however not revolutionary: in 2021, the reserves were 94.5% full, indicated the CRE in April.

Three private operators

This Energy Regulation Commission is the institution responsible for managing French gas storage. Its main task is to set the gas storage price. This year, it amounts to €261.08 per MWh and per day for hydrocarbons collected from April 1, 2022.

French storage capacities stand at 130 TWh, an amount equivalent to one third of annual national consumption. A little better than in Germany, where they amount to 274 TWh, or 27% of consumption.

There are 14 storage sites in France managed by three private operators: Sotrengy, a subsidiary of Engie, Teréga and Géomethane. These are spread over the entire territory, from Gournay-sur-Aronde in Hauts-de-France to Manosque in Provence-Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur, via Beynes in Yvelines.

Aquifers and saline cavities

The gas is stored in developed underground corresponding to two types of geological structures: aquifers, ie rocks that harbor water, and saline cavities, which are smaller and created artificially. These basements can be used because they are impermeable to gas, a necessary condition for storage.

The first structures are used for seasonal storage, while the characteristics of the second allow them to be used on a short-term cycle, of the order of a week.

The law normally requires suppliers to fill their stocks to 85%. In fact, they often exceed this threshold. This allows them to cope with the variations between summer and winter, a season during which gas, mainly used for heating, is very much used.

Only “50% of needs” in winter

However, saying we’re 100% doesn’t mean we’d have enough gas to get through the winter if the Russians cut it off and we used a lot of it,” warned Olivier Véran at the end of August.

Indeed, according to the study of the impact of the emergency law on purchasing power, gas reserves “only cover about 50% of needs during peak consumption periods”during winter.

CRE agrees with the existence of a “new risk” induced by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the limited dependence on Russian gas from France and access to Norwegian gas allow Paris to be more serene than many of its neighbors, says the institution.

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