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Belgium's gas stock is more than 80 percent full, but we barely make it through 12 winter days

Belgium’s gas stock is more than 80 percent full, but we barely make it through 12 winter days

To protect gas supplies this winter, European countries previously agreed to fill gas supplies to at least 80 percent by November 1. These gas reserves are needed each year to weather the winter when more is being used than is produced. But now that Russia has reduced Europe’s gas supply, and it is uncertain whether it will continue to do so at all in the coming months, its importance has increased.

filling degree

Although Europe will not impose the 80 percent mark until November, our country’s natural gas reserves have already reached this level. This puts Belgium in the leading group of European countries that have already topped their best gas reserves. The Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have already reached 80%. The Netherlands (71.2 per cent) and Germany (78.19 per cent) are still somewhat behind. On average, the filling level of the 20 EU countries with their gas stock is currently around 75 percent.

Moreover, several European countries are going one step further. For example, storage facilities in Germany must be filled to at least 85 percent by October 1 and at least 95 percent by November 1. Our ambition is also above 80 percent, says Laurent Remy, a spokesman for Fluxys, our country’s gas network operator. According to the current rules, storage users must do their best to be at the 90 percent fill level by November 1. “And now 94 percent of the holding volume has already been filled,” it seems.

In Belgium, natural gas is stored in one place. This takes place in Loenhout, in Antwerp Kempen. Since 1985, millions of cubic meters of natural gas have been stored there at a depth of more than one kilometer. “This happens in a natural underground watery rock cavity,” a Fluxys spokesperson explains. Because of the shape of the tank, it is sometimes referred to as an “inverted soup plate”.

Fluxys natural gas storage facility in Loenhout.image flow

12 winter days

“The site was discovered in the 1960s,” he continues. Then Petrovina. It was (Former Belgian Oil Company, editor) Looking for oil. They did not find it at the time, but did find this structure in the ground. It is very suitable for storing natural gas. It is actually a porous layer of rock that is filled with groundwater. When gas is injected under high pressure, it replaces water. There is an impenetrable layer of soil around this rocky structure, which prevents gas from seeping in.”

The reservoir is located more than one kilometer deep in the Kempin soil and provides space for approximately 770 million cubic meters of natural gas. Underground, the borehole surface covers at least 2,800 hectares and extends under Wuustwezel, Brecht, Rijkevorsel and Hoogstraten. Above ground, the site covers about 30 hectares and employs about 40 Fluxys people.

Loenhout has a maximum storage capacity of 8701 GWh. “That’s 4.6 percent of the average annual natural gas consumption for the entire country,” Fluxes said. This means that our country can cover the average consumption of dozens of winter days with a fully full tank, without any other imports of natural gas. “Although this is a theoretical approach,” says Remy. “In practice, there are technical limitations on the amount of natural gas that can be removed from storage during a given period. However, Loenhout can cover about 15 percent of Belgian consumption on a peak day.”

small storage

In other countries, gas reserves are relatively larger. In this way, Germany can last 45 days of winter at full storage capacity. The Netherlands (61 winter days), Austria (144 days) and Latvia (313 days) will arrive longer. “We have a small margin,” Floxis admits. We have searched, but nowhere else in Belgium can we find a suitable soil structure for the establishment of other storage sites. But due to our LNG terminal in Zeebrugge and good pipeline connectivity with neighboring countries, we have some strategic supply advantages with Belgium.”

Even though European stock stocks are better than they were at the same time last year, that doesn’t mean there are no problems this winter. Russia currently supplies a fraction of the volume of natural gas it used to do and there are fears that supply will fall further this winter. With a cold and complete winter to cut From Russian gas, the maximum capacity of gas reserves also threatens to be insufficient. The International Energy Agency has already warned of this. If Russia stops supplying from October, there will be shortages in Europe from January.

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