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    France’s Energy Minister Seeks US LNG Import Ban



French companies signed contracts with Cheniere to get LNG, including shale gas, but Energy minister is looking to a “legal way” to prevent any importation

by: Kevin Bonnaud

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France’s Energy Minister Seeks US LNG Import Ban

France’s energy and environment minister Segolene Royal wants to find a “legal way” to prevent the import of non-conventional US LNG. 

National champions EDF and Engie have contracts with US Cheniere Energy to buy liquefied natural gas in the coming months but the enabling technology behind US shale gas production, hydraulic fracturing, has been banned in France. 

“I will assess whether we can legally ban shale gas importations but in any case those companies (EDF and Engie) will have to look for other markets to import only conventional gas,” Royal told parliament.

Acknowledging that some of the LNG provided by Cheniere Energy to EDF and Engie will actually come from shale gas, the minister said she asked both companies why they have not been vigilant concerning “this particular market” giving the fact that France banned hydraulic fracturing in 2011. 

Last October, Engie, a third owned by the government, announced a five-year deal with Cheniere Marketing International for 12 cargoes/year. And 85%-state-owned EDF concluded a similar deal the same year for 24 cargoes by 2018. The year before, EDF signed a 20-year contract with Cheniere for between 380,000 and 770,000 metric tons/yr from 2019.

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In 2012, Total signed a 20-yr contract with Cheniere to buy 2mn mt/year from 2018.

Cecile Duflot, co-chair of France’s green party Europe Ecologie-Les Verts in the National assembly, who represents a congressional district in Paris, asked Royal to comment on the fact that “some French people will have to inadvertently use shale gas, which is damaging for the environment.”

Duflot, a former minister of housing between 2012 and 2014, at the beginning of François Hollande term, who is considering running for president in 2017 blames the government. “How can we accept shale gas imports under the fracking ban. It’s more than a paradox, that’s a mistake and a threat for our future,” Duflot said.

LNG imports coming to France soon 

June sees the start of commissioning of the LNG import terminal at Dunkirk. NGE reported in early April that the construction was 98% complete and that the LNG terminal – a €1bn project funded by EDF, Total and the Belgium company Fluxys – will be able to start operating in the end of June.

According to Le Monde, "the origin of the first LNG carriers coming to the Dunkirk terminal will be known just a month before the terminal start to operate". 

The piece released in Le Parisien sparked an outcry on the left and a new cause of friction in an already challenging and tense relationship between the socialist ruling party and its green ally. Interviewed by France’s public television France 2 on May 8, just hours after the story broke, Royal said: “France cannot ban shale gas on its territory for environmental reasons while accepting shale gas importations.”

Kevin Bonnaud