Europe Turns to Gas Storage to Offset French LNG Halt
03.15.2023 By - NEWS

March 15, 2023 [Argus] – European countries are increasing withdrawals from underground sites to offset a halt to regasification from France’s four LNG terminals.


European regasification fell to its lowest since 23 October 2022 on 11 March as industrial action halted output from French terminals (see sendout graph). The Elengy-operated 8mn t/yr Montoir, 6.6mn t/yr Fos Cavaou and 2.2mn t/yr Fos Tonkin facilities halted operations at 13:00 CET (12:00 GMT) on 6 March, followed by the 12.4mn t/yr Dunkirk terminal at the start of the 7 March gas day.

French sendout collapsed to just 90 GWh/d on 6-12 March from 1.2 TWh/d earlier in the month. And the shortfall in supply is having ripple effects throughout the continent.

France has increased its withdrawals from underground storage as a share of consumption since the beginning of the strikes. Withdrawals accounted for 60pc of total supply on 6-11 March — according to the latest data — up from 48pc earlier in the month and 46pc in January-February (see French stockdraw graph).

And the uptick in withdrawals relative to consumption has also been felt by neighbouring countries, previously reliant on regasified supply from France, although the effect has been muted by mild weather, which has led to a fall in heating demand.

France has reversed its pipeline flows and imported supply from Spain in recent days to make up for the shortfall in LNG. Exports towards Belgium have also fallen, reversing to net imports on 7-8 March. And flows towards Germany have halted while exports to Switzerland — most of which then transits to Italy — have also slowed (see supply graph).

The halt in exports towards Belgium has led onward eastward flows from the country towards Germany and the Netherlands to fall sharply. Belgian exports towards Germany fell to their lowest since March 2022 on 11 March. And Belgium imported from the Netherlands on 6-8 March for the first time since late January.

And with less pipeline supply reaching Germany from Belgium, France and the Netherlands, the country’s withdrawals have risen. The German stockdraw rose to 1.2 TWh/d on 6-11 March — according to the latest available data from GIE — from 1 TWh/d earlier in the month. And withdrawals as a share of German consumption rose to 36pc over the period, from 28pc earlier in the month and in January-February (see German stockdraw graph).

Italian withdrawals also slightly increased their share of the country’s consumption as imports at Tarvisio — where Italy imports from France via Switzerland — halted completely on 9-12 March. The Italian stockdraw accounted for 24pc of Italian consumption on 6-10 March up from 22pc earlier in the month. But Italian consumption fell to 2.1 TWh/d on 6-12 March from 2.7 TWh/d earlier in the month, which may have limited the draw on underground stocks.

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