A pipeline being built in northern France is set to link a new LNG terminal in the port of Dunkirk with Germany by 2016, offering Europe's biggest energy market an alternative to Russian gas.
Germany is currently the world's biggest importer of Russian gas but the European Union, in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, has reiterated its call for EU member states to reduce their reliance on Russian energy.
Arc de Dierrey pipeline
The 300 km Arc de Dierrey pipeline, being built by grid operator GRTgaz, will mainly carry gas from state utility EDF's new LNG terminal and improve transit to southern France.
Its potential as an alternative link for Germany and Switzerland has also gained importance since the Ukraine crisis reignited concerns about the transit of Russian gas to Europe.
"Arc de Dierrey is the first step of a grand plan to unify the two French gas hubs," Olivier Aubert, said head of supply at GRTgaz.
"But it will contribute to another service in the future, making France an entry point for gas in Europe. And the most important market, that we all have in mind, is Germany", Aubert said.
Pipeline will also link two gas zones in France
The €635 million euro (US$ 866 million) pipeline has received a €77 million subsidy from the EU for its role in diversifying European energy procurement.
It will also fully unify France's two gas zones, Peg Nord and Peg Sud, which have experienced diverging prices in recent years, with prices in the south, which already depends on the global LNG market, rising well above those in the north, which is supplied by pipelines.
To that end, GRTgaz is expected to take a final investment decision at the end of 2015 on another section of pipeline in the Val de Saone in the centre of the country. That will remove the bottleneck between the two zones - currently linked only by a low-capacity pipe - by around 2018.
In the meantime, work on a section called Hauts de France II is expected to be finished this year. It will then link up with the Arc de Dierrey pipeline, joining the towns of Cuvilly in Picardy and Voisines in the Champagne region and forming an arc east of Paris.
Phase 1 will be ready in November 2015 when the Dunkirk LNG terminal is completed, and phase 2 will link up with existing pipelines to Obergailbach on the German border and Oltingue on the Swiss border in November 2016.
Changing gas flow, and odorisation practices
Gas currently flows in one direction only, from Germany to France, but there is no major technical issue preventing it from flowing the other way, Aubert said.
However, France would have to change the way it odorises gas if it wants to start exporting to Germany, he added. Under French law, the odorisation process - adding a smelly liquid into natural gas distribution system so that leaks are easily detectable - is carried out centrally at gas hubs.
In Germany and most other European countries, however, it is done at stations outside each city. GRTgaz is currently experimenting with the first non-odorised link in France near the Belgian border to prepare for that possibility, Aubert said.
Germany, which relies for 36% of its gas imports on Russia, does not have direct access to an LNG terminal on its coast, although two other terminals, in Belgium and the Netherlands, can supply it with LNG.
Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner
Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/gas-processing/03072014/french_pipeline_will_link_lng_port_to_germany_by_2016/