France in Process of Expanding LNG Capacity

Tuesday, 03 October 2023
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TotalEnergies has received its chartered and fully laden FSRU Cape Ann at the Le Havre FSRU site in mid-September. Annualised utilisation of French LNG import capacity hit capacity last year has European buyers rushed to replace Russian pipeline gas. Although pressure on French LNG import capacity has eased during the first two quarters this year, annualised capacity utilisation remains more then 30pct above the equivalent in 2021, according to our data. Pressure groups had previously criticized the Le Havre FSRU project as unnecessary.

The 143,000m3 FSRU Cape Ann, chartered by TotalEnergies from Hoegh LNG to be deployed at Le Havre in France, arrived at the port’s Bougainville dock in mid-September, our data showed.

Prior to sailing to France, the vessel underwent a ship-to-ship cargo loading operation with the Seapeak Arwa offshore Algeciras and Gibraltar.

The cargo was originally loaded at Equinor’s Snøhvit LNG in Norway on 2 September.

Marketing plan

TELSF began marketing LNG capacity in December last year, issuing a non-binding call for interest covering around 1.8mmt of regasification capacity for the period spanning 16-27 January.

The remaining half of nominal capacity has been reserved by TotalEnergies itself.

This places the additional FSRU capacity amid Europe’s highest energy demand period. Notably, like Germany, France opted to install FSRU capacity quickly to add flexibility in its gas procurement after most pipeline deliveries from Russia to the European Union have ceased following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sabotage of the Nord Stream trunklines.

TELSF issued an additional binding open season on 28 August to market available capacities between January 2024 and September 2028. 

market tracker 2 oct 2023

Capacity constraints

TotalEnergies warned in its December 2022 application to be exempt from third-party access obligations and regulated tariffs under French law that the country’s LNG import capability will hit its limit without an FSRU.

According to our data, annualised capacity utilisation of French LNG import capacity remained at around 54pct between 2019 and 2021.

This changed rapidly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the average utilisation reaching 97pct in 2022. French LNG imports almost doubled from 13.08mmt in 2021 to 25.8mmt in 2022.

Notably, however, capacity utilisation has relaxed to an average of 82pct during the Q1 and Q2 of 2023 as other European terminals – perhaps most prominently in Germany – have ramped up imports and thus lessened the pressure on French terminals; at least during the first two quarters this year.

The Le Havre FSRU project had previously been criticized by pressure groups as unnecessary.

Capacity expansion

TotalEnergies LNG Services France (TELSF), a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, will oversee the commissioning and subsequently operate the Le Havre FSRU terminal.

French transmission operator GRTgaz will operate the connecting pipeline to the gas transmission network.

The terminal’s design capacity is roughly 3.60 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

France currently has three conventional terminals – Montoir de Bretagne, the Fos-sur-Mer complex (Elengy’s Fos Cavou and Fos Tonkin) and Dunkerque Le Clipton – with total capacity of around 26.70mtpa, according to our data. However, Le Havre will be France’s first FSRU installation and increase national capacity to around 30.30mtpa.

Whilst hosting an FSRU this time round, Le Havre was also the site of France’s first LNG terminal, which began operations in 1965 but was closed in 1989 due to its structural inability to adapt to changing market conditions. It was small by today’s standards, with total storage capacity of only 36,000m3 and accepting vessels with around 25,000m3 capacity.

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