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France to build up extra 1 TWh of gas stocks ahead of winter

PARIS (Reuters) — The French government has ordered gas transport operator GRTgaz to build up an extra 1 terrawatt-hour (TWh) of natural gas stocks ahead of winter due to the low level of reserves.

A GRTgaz spokeswoman said the request, the first of its kind from the government, would bolster the security of supplies in the event of a prolonged cold spell this winter.

Last winter, France suffered severe gas shortages, particularly in the south, due to increased demand from gas-fired power plants and to heat homes.

The supply crunch was exacerbated by a force majeure in Algeria and high global demand, in particular from Asia, which delayed delivery of liquefied natural gas.

Gas contracts in southern France at the time hit record highs.

"The natural gas will be injected in the South-East PITS (storage facility)," the GRTgaz spokeswoman said, adding the company had already started the stock build-up.

GRTgaz, a unit of French energy group Engie, and Storengy, another Engie subsidiary that develops and operates gas storage facilities, had warned France was at risk of gas shortages during cold snaps this winter due to low stocks.

According to the latest data on Storengy's website, France's contractual gas storage level was at a new low of about 59.3 TWh as of Aug. 22. That compares with the previous lowest level, recorded in 2013, of about 70 TWh, and 80 TWh last year.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Richard Lough and Mark Potter

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