Belgian gas TSO boosts profits on less throughput
Belgium's gas transmission system operator (TSO) Fluxys saw its profit inch up to €73.2mn ($86mn) in 2020, from 2019's €69.5mn, despite lower throughput during the year. Pre-tax earnings were also up, at €313.6mn, from €297.3mn in 2019, according to its financial results published late March 31.
The increase in turnover and net profit is mainly due to the commissioning of the fifth storage tank for transshipment services in Zeebrugge in late 2019, it said. And the pandemic notwithstanding all its essential services remained operational.
Last year was the first of a new three-year price control period covering its regulated services. The tariffs cover all reasonable costs, including interest and fair remuneration, but they do limit its potential for additional efficiency gains. Despite that, Fluxys benefited from incentives.
Health measures at construction sites led to delays, but the new infrastructure between Maarkedal and Ronse and between Leuze and Beloeil was commissioned in good time. Also calorie conversion work was done on time, reflecting the accelerated reduction in gas flows from the nitrogen-rich Dutch Groningen gas field. And the remaining schedule for the conversion has been shortened. The entire market for low-calorific natural gas will be converted by 2024 instead of 2029, which is the date of expiry of the last Dutch gas export contract.
Transmission volumes were down compared with 2019: border-to-border volumes fell by 14% to 204.9 TWh and volumes for consumption on the Belgian market declined 1% to about 190.6 TWh. Transmission to distribution system operators was down by 4%, reflecting milder weather and major industrial demand fell almost 1%. Transmission volumes for natural-gas-fired power plants rose by 5% however.
The Zeebrugge LNG terminal saw an all-time record in traffic, with the start of the long-term transshipment contract in December 2019. A total of 172 vessels docked at the terminal last year, smashing the previous record of 130 in 2019. March 2020 was the busiest ever month for ship traffic at the terminal, with a total of 30 vessels docking, more than double the previous record in May 2019. The number of transshipment operations almost tripled while the number of unloading operations decreased. LNG truck traffic increased by over 20% to nearly 3,200 loading operations.
The terminal's offer of 6mn metric tons/year new capacity fully subscribed during the open season's binding phase and so Fluxys has taken the final investment decision to build additional infrastructure.