France's GRTgaz issues framework to limit supply in case of gas shortages

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PARIS, April 8 (Reuters) - French gas transport network operator GRTgaz said it has put in place measures that can be invoked to limit gas supply to customers in the event of shortages, and called on shippers to fill underground storage ahead of next winter.

So-called load shedding is the deliberate shutdown of consumption to help cover supply deficits, usually determined through contracts with industry in the event of excess demand.

The measures allow the company to issue orders to reduce or interrupt gas consumption within two hours to large consumers connected to its network, and ask distribution system operators to do the same in the event of a shortage.

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"This new system will only be activated when all other means available to ensure continuity of supply have been exhausted," GRTgaz said in a statement.

French gas users whose consumption exceeds 5 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year would be the first group impacted by load-shedding, the company said.

This includes gas-fired power plants that produce more than 150 megawatts (MW) of power - provided the security of the electricity grid is maintained - and large industrial sites and buildings, such as refineries and shopping centers, they added.

Other consumers under the 5 GWh per year threshold, such as residential buildings and small shops, would be affected last.

GRTgaz also recommended that all possible mechanisms be put in place to speed up renewable gas production.

French storage filling started in mid-March when levels reached a low point of 19%, about 15 days earlier than usual, they said.

France would be less affected than European neighbors in the event of a supply stoppage from Russia, as exports from the country account for about 17% of total gas consumption in France, the company said.

GRTgaz added that it has an agreement with the French energy regulator CRE to study the possibility of using a floating liquefied natural gas terminal to help with supply. Discussions on potential locations are ongoing, they said.

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Reporting by Forrest Crellin, Benjamin Mallet, Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Jan Harvey

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