French, Belgian TSOs ensure supply amid falling demand

Author: Gretchen Ransow

2020/03/18

LONDON (ICIS)--Transmission system operators (TSOs) in Belgium and France have taken steps to ensure continuity and security of natural gas supply during the coronavirus outbreak.

A Fluxys spokesman said that access to the control room had been limited to personnel on shift and that employees in the dispatch centre had to keep a safe distance from one another. One team was isolated from the shift rota so that it could take over operations from the back up control room if there was an outbreak at the main despatch centre.

Domestic consumption in Belgium, which includes heating related demand, has dropped from an average of 42mcm/day during working days in week 10, to 35mcm/day in week 11, and to 32mcm on Monday 16 March.

Industrial demand, which averaged 14.2mcm/day during February and in week 10, dropped to 13.3mcm/day in week 11 and 12.9mcm/day by 16 March.

Fluxys described trying to assess the outbreak’s demand implications as “a crystal ball exercise” given the novelty of the situation. However, he said an economic downturn could result in reduced industrial offtake by industrial customers connected to Fluxys’ network and by small and medium enterprises connected to distribution network operators, but the scale of the potential impact was difficult to assess at this point.

Bars, restaurants and schools across Belgium have been closed, and home-working has been encouraged where possible, which is likely to continue to supress heating-related demand.

In France, TSO GRTgaz said that it had implemented its business continuity plan, but the details of that plan were confidential. However, it said that it had taken “special measures” to ensure continuity of service for those employees whose activities had an impact on supply or transmission system security.

Combined data from GRTgaz and Terega, France’s other TSO, showed that consumption by public distribution companies has dropped from 121mcm/day in week 10 working days to 97.5mcm/day in week 11 and just 89mcm/day on 16 March. Total French demand has declined by 25%, amid a lockdown in France.