• After Belgium and Portugal, France becomes, this Wednesday, the third European country to announce that it has its gas storages filled to 100%.

  • Good news in the perspective of a winter that the war in Ukraine makes complicated.

    Our eleven storage sites have a capacity of 130 terawatt-hours (TWh), when we consume around 300 from November to April, in France.

  • If this 100% filling makes it possible to attack the winter more serenely, that does not however preserve us from tensions on the gas in the months to come.

    And beware of the reflex of drawing too much from the reserves at the start of winter...

Building a new LNG terminal off Le Havre, aiming to reduce our energy consumption by 10% within two years... Two levers activated by France to avoid gas shortages in the coming winters, in this new geopolitical context by the war in Ukraine.

A third is added: filling our gas storage capacities to the maximum.

"We are aiming for 100% at the start of the fall", launched Elisabeth Borne, the Prime Minister, on June 23, during a visit to the national gas control center in Ile-de-France.

This Wednesday, October 5, we are there.

After Belgium and Portugal, France becomes the third European country to have its gas storages filled to 100%, announced in a press release the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE), but also Storengy and Teréga, which operate the storage sites in France.

They are eleven in number, all underground cavities with a total capacity of 130 terawatt-hours (TWh).

Very useful reserves

This covers a third of our annual gas consumption.

Even more so if we only look at the gas winter, between November 1 and April 30, the period when our gas consumption is highest and when stocks are used.

"Around 300 TWh are consumed over these five months in France", specifies Estibaliz Gonzalez Ferrer, Strategy and Commercial Director at Storengy.

"Gas storage contributes to more than 50% of our daily needs during winter cold spells*", she adds.

This shows the strategic importance of these reserves, during a "classic" winter, but even more for the one who arrives.

Because it will be necessary to do without Russian gas which represented approximately 17% of French imports before the outbreak of the war.

It's not the first time that we've entered winter with almost full reserves.

"This was already the case in recent years with filling levels over 90% in mid-October", specifies Gilles Doyhamboure, Commerce and Regulation Director at Teréga.

“The novelty this year is that we reached these very high levels earlier than usual,” he continues.

It's very positive to be reassured about the state of our stocks well ahead of winter.


But which do not shelter us from a complicated winter

What to be a little more serene then… However, neither Estibaliz Gonzalez Ferrer, nor Gilles Doyhamboure tell us that they are safe from a complicated winter.

No more than Anna Creti, professor of economics at Paris-Dauphine University and director of the Climate Economics Chair.

"These stocks are not emergency reserves that we would draw on only if we really need them," she says.

We know that we will have to use them, not only to cover French needs, but also, possibly, those of our European neighbors in the name of the principle of European solidarity.


In other words, these 100% filled storages are not to be considered as a “bonus”.

GRT-Gaz, the main gas transporter in France, and Teréga (which also transports it), were counting on it in their outlook for this winter, published on September 14.

Whether the winter is very cold or average, with no marked cold spell*, all gas supply sources will have to be mobilised, concluded the two companies.

There are three: interconnections with the pipelines of neighboring countries, LNG terminals (delivery of liquefied natural gas by boat) and finally storage.

Reserves to preserve as much as possible

The whole challenge then, underlines Anna Creti, is to use these 130 TWh stored as finely as possible, “in support as much as possible of the two other sources of supply”.

With this difficulty, specific to gas, “that we cannot draw on reserves as easily as we can do with oil”, continues the economics professor.

Question of pressure, explains Gilles Doyhamboure.

“The more these reserves are emptied, the more the pressure decreases and the more the withdrawal power decreases, which then reduces the capacity that we have quickly mobilized this resource in the event of consumption peaks, he specifies.

This is not a detail, especially if we experience late cold spells next year, as is not uncommon in April, and gas storage has already been well underway.

Hence the imperative to preserve reserves as much as possible.

It does not depend so much on Storengy and Teréga.

“It is the gas suppliers – who also fill these stocks – who decide when they draw on these reserves”, recall Gilles Doyhamboure and Estibaliz Gonzalez Ferrer.

The problem, specifies the latter, is that these suppliers may have no choice but to use these stocks very early, "in the event of early cold spells for which the other sources of supply would no longer be sufficient. to meet the demand for gas.

This is the whole call that Storengy and Teréga then reiterated this Wednesday: even with storage 100% full, “in no case should we relax the efforts of sobriety”, reacts Pierre Chambon, Managing Director of Storengy France.

Elisabeth Borne should say it again this Thursday morning, presenting the energy sobriety plan that the government has been preparing since this summer.


Energy crisis: Why Ecowatt is a key lever to avoid cuts this winter?


Energy: "We must think about a collective sobriety that does not denigrate small gestures but encourages them"

* For the cold snap of January 5 and 6, 2021, 66% of the gas consumed came from storage, illustrates Storengy.

The latter provided these days 40% more energy than the French nuclear fleet.

**GRT Gaz and Teréga had worked on two scenarios.

That of an average winter with no marked cold spell shows a globally balanced system, with no gas deficit.

"However, there is little room for manoeuvre, especially on the days of the highest consumption", specified the two gas transport operators.

In the second, that of a very cold winter, “the winter deficit can reach 16 TWh, which represents 5% of winter consumption, a level that can be absorbed by achieving the sobriety objectives set by the public authorities.

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