is the operator of a gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...
transmission system in France. This system consists of pipelines through which natural gas flows at high pressure, in excess of 60 bar. GRTgaz’s role is to operate, maintain and develop its network of pipelines and to sell capacity to natural gas suppliers operating in the French market.
GRTgaz is a public limited company, a subsidiary
A subsidiary company, subsidiary, or daughter company is a company that is completely or partly owned and wholly controlled by another company that owns more than half of the subsidiary's stock. The subsidiary can be a company, corporation, or limited liability company. In some cases it is a...
of the industrial group GDF Suez
GDF Suez S.A. is a French multinational energy company which operates in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas and renewable energy. The world's largest utility after taking control of Britain's International Power, the company was initially formed by the merger of Gaz...
(formerly Gaz de France
Gaz de France was a French company which produced, transported and sold natural gas around the world, especially in France, its main market. The company was also particularly active in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other European countries. Through its part-owned Belgian subsidiary SPE...
). It was created on January 1, 2005 in application of European directives on the European electricity and gas market. GRTgaz operates in the regulated energy sector: this means that the rates it charges for its services are public and set by the Government
The government of the French Republic is a semi-presidential system determined by the French Constitution of the fifth Republic. The nation declares itself to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic"...
. Its activities are monitored by the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE). Its board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...
is made up of representatives of the Government and of personnel, independent directors and representatives of the GDF Suez Group.
Philippe Boucly has been CEO of the company for January 1, 2009. The former CEO Jacques Laurelut is Chairman of GTE, Gas Transmission Europe, an association of the different national gas transmission companies in the European Union. GTE’s role is to represent the industry across Europe.
GRTgaz, strictly speaking, has no main competitors. GRTgaz’s activity is a natural monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...
. However, GRTgaz does not operate France’s entire gas transmission system: TIGF, a subsidiary of Total S.A.
Total S.A. is a French multinational oil company and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world.Its businesses cover the entire oil and gas chain, from crude oil and natural gas exploration and production to power generation, transportation, refining, petroleum product marketing, and...
, operates the transmission system in the south-western quarter of France.
GRTgaz has a dual role:
- to transport natural gas to industrial customers and public distribution networks, at optimum cost and in maximum safety,
- to support the opening up of the energy market in France by providing equal access to the transmission system to all licensed natural gas shippers.
GRTgaz has a public service role: it guarantees a continuous supply of natural gas, even in times of extreme cold. Under French law, even in the event of exceptionally cold conditions, as may occur every 50 years, the transmission system must be able to meet peak consumer demand. The law defines this concept of exceptionally cold conditions as follows:
- a cold winter such as occurs statistically every 50 years,
- or a period of extremely low temperature lasting a maximum of three days, as occurs statistically every 50 years.
Currently, these temperatures, as calculated from previous winters, are around -1.5°C on average across France, with a minimum of -18.1°C and a maximum of -1°C, depending on the location.
In addition, the gas transmission operator’s central role in the opening up of the market demands strict equity between natural gas operators. GRTgaz follows three principles which govern its actions and decisions:
- transparency: GRTgaz undertakes to provide all market players with information on transmission and balancing, via its website and e-mail newsletters, through public meetings and any other means available.
- Non-discrimination: GRTgaz undertakes to apply the same rules to all customers and all users of the transmission system, offering them the same prices and the same services.
- Confidentiality of commercially sensitive or advantageous information: GRTgaz undertakes not to disclose the information passed on by customers on current or future projects, so as not to discriminate between them, and undertakes to handle all projects assigned to it by customers in an equitable manner.
These undertakings are set out and explained in GRTgaz’s Code of Conduct. Every transmission system operator is legally required to establish and publish a code of conduct. GRTgaz’s Code of Conduct is published on its website. Every year, a report is published on the application of that Code within the company, and is also sent to the CRE.
The transmission system operated by GRTgaz covers the whole of France, with the exception of the South-West. It consists of:
a primary pipeline system 6,100 km long: the biggest pipelines (diameters of 400 mm to 1200 mm and pressures of 67 to 85 bar).
the regional pipeline system: smaller in diameter (80 mm to 400 mm, pressure of 20 to 40 bar), the function of these pipes is to supply gas to industrial customers and public distribution networks.
This structure can be compared with the roads network: the primary pipeline system is the equivalent of the motorway network, and the regional system corresponds to the trunk roads.
Most of the pipelines run through the countryside and near towns and cities, where they often form an orbital loop.
They are all underground, which makes the system both safe and discreet. A pipeline is identified by regularly spaced yellow marker posts on the surface and by an easement strip 10 m to 24 m wide, where no high vegetation is allowed to grow. This means that it is in woodland where the pipelines are most “visible”, since their route is marked by a strip with no high trees on it, which sometimes takes the form of a track or a fire break, or else long areas of grassland where a degree of biodiversity can develop.
The natural gas flows through these pipes and gradually loses speed and pressure. This means that it needs to be regularly re-pressurized. Approximately every 150 km is a compressor station, which restores pressure to the gas. Interconnection stations along the pipeline direct the gas in different directions, like a motorway interchange.
Pipelines and compressor stations are the main structures on the transmission system, along with interconnection stations and a number of other substations:
- block valve stations,
- delivery stations,
- distribution stations.
GRTgaz has an ambitious 10-year investment program focusing on the following aims:
- system development: debottlenecking the entry and exit points on the system, increasing transmission capacity,
- fulfilling its public service obligations, in particular extending the regional system in order to handle consumption peaks in the event of a very cold winter,
- system safety: application of the safety standards governing gas transmission infrastructures, which were revised in 2006, both on future structures and existing pipelines and compressor stations, to offer maximum protection to people and the environment
- respect for the environment: application of changes in environmental regulations, ISO 14001 certification for compressor stations
- enhancing reliability and maintaining infrastructures, pipelines, stations, etc.
- connecting new users to the transmission system, in particular power stations, for which 9 projects are currently underway (connection contracts signed).
In all, the plan is to invest more than €5 billion over the period 2007-2016, including €480 million on safety and €550 million on environmental protection.