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ENERGY

France’s TotalEnergies to sell stake in war-linked Russian gas field

French energy firm TotalEnergies said Friday it was divesting its stake in a Russian gas field that was reported this week to be providing fuel that ends up in Russian fighter jets.

TotalEnergies logo at La Defense
This file photograph shows the TotalEnergies logo at a charging station in La Defense on the outskirts of Paris. French daily Le Monde this week reported the alleged refining of natural gas condensates from a Russian gas field partly owned by TotalEnergies into jet fuel for fighter-bombers involved in Russia's assault on Ukraine. Photo: Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

The company said that it had signed a deal on Friday with its local Russian partner Novatek to sell its 49 percent in the Termokarstovoye gas field “on economic terms enabling TotalEnergies to recover the outstanding amounts
invested in the field.”

It said the divestment had been agreed in July and submitted to Russian authorities in early August, with approval coming on August 25.

That was the day after an article appeared in French daily Le Monde reporting the alleged refining of natural gas condensates from Termokarstovoye into jet fuel for fighter-bombers involved in Russia’s assault on Ukraine since February.

TotalEnergies — formerly Total — owns 49 percent of Terneftegaz, the company that extracts gas from the Termokarstovoye field.

The other 51 percent is held by Novatek, in which the French firm also holds a 19.4 percent stake.

TotalEnergies initially said it had no control over the sales of its Russian partner.

On Friday, it said Novatek had denied that its condensates were being refined into Russian military jet fuel.

Instead, they were sent to processing at a refinery whose products are exclusively exported outside Russia, a Novatek statement relayed by the French firm said.

READ ALSO: France’s TotalEnergies accused of supplying fuel to Russian air force

TotalEnergies also said it was considering legal action in a bid to end an “unfounded controversy which is damaging the reputation of the company.”

Clara Gonzales at Greenpeace France said that the Termokarstovoye sale must not be a “smokescreen for the ongoing commercial relations of TotalEnergies in Russia,” and called for it to offload its stake in Novatek which “supplies the Russian army”.

“We are grateful to (French President) Emmanuel Macron and the French people for supporting Ukraine. Against this background, it is a disgrace to France when French companies assist the murder of Ukrainians and the ruining
of our cities,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Friday. “TotalEnergies, pull out of Russia!”

‘Exclusively exported’ fuel

Le Monde reported Wednesday that condensates from Termokarstovoye were being sent to a refinery that had provided 42,700 tonnes of fuel from February-July sent to airbases hosting Russian planes.

They accounted for more than eight percent of the raw materials received at the refinery in Omsk since the invasion of Ukraine, it added.

Citing data from financial information firm Refinitiv, the newspaper said the jet fuel shipments could be tracked back to the by-products from Termokarstovoye.

Novatek said via TotalEnergies that all condensates from the gas field are “delivered to the Ust-Luga processing complex in the Leningrad region.

“The range of products derived during processing at the Ust-Luga complex includes jet fuel that is exclusively exported outside Russia, and it does not even have the certification to be sold inside the country”.

TotalEnergies is the only major Western energy group to continue its operations in Russia, which accounts for 16.6 percent of its hydrocarbon production and 30 percent of its gas.

Chief executive Patrick Pouyanne had said in March that Russian gas fields exploited by the company’s joint ventures “are going to operate whether I leave or not” and are vital for supplying energy to Europe.

Selling TotalEnergies’ assets at knock-down prices would amount to handing billions to Russian investors, he argued.

But the firm has since announced a partial withdrawal from Russia, including stopping financing the Arctic LNG 2 gas project.

In July, it sold its 20-percent stake in an Arctic oil field to Russia’s Zarubejneft.

READ ALSO: Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

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ENERGY

Schools, trains and hospitals: How France will handle possible electricity blackouts this winter

The French government has sent out detailed information regarding the possibility of power outages this winter as the country continues to grapple with securing energy supplies in the absence of Russian gas.

Schools, trains and hospitals: How France will handle possible electricity blackouts this winter

The French government has sent out the detailed information to local authorities for use in the event of power outages – something that the government still says is unlikely to happen.

French government officials have already clarified that any power cuts would occur when the energy grid is overly strained, in the event of the combination of unusually cold weather, ongoing problems at French nuclear plants and the failure to buy in extra power supplies from European neighbours.

“We are not saying that there are going to be power cuts, but that it is not impossible,” Olivier Véran, the government spokesperson clarified to RMC on Thursday.

If power outages are likely, information will be available on the Ecowatt website and app, which can be accessed now. Three days in advance, you will be able to see if you are in a “red” zone (meaning energy is highly strained), and one day prior, at 3pm, you will be informed as to whether your département is to be affected by a power outage the next day. Later, at 5pm you will be able to enter your personal address to see if you will be personally impacted.

“The idea is for no one to be surprised”, a government source told regional newspaper Nice Matin.

It should be noted that Corsica is not at risk of blackouts because it is not on the same electrical grid as mainland France.

READ MORE: ‘Ecowatt’: How you should use France’s new energy forecasting website?

These power outages would not occur across the entire country – instead they would affect small segments of the grid, such as individual towns or localities.

Additionally, these power outages would only take place either in the morning (between the hours of 8am and 1pm) or in the evening between the hours of 6pm and 8pm and would not affect crucial buildings such as hospitals. 

Local authorities have now been tasked with preparing an emergency response solutions in the event of a power cut in their area.

A source told the regional newspaper that local authorities will be required to present “load-shedding (power outage) plans that would reduce consumption in the areas concerned by up to 38 percent.”

According to reporting by Nice Matin, France’s inter ministerial crisis unit is working with the assumption that six to ten load shedding operations (power cuts) will be necessary over the winter period, and that these two-hour operations could affect up to six million people at a time.

The documents also provided further detail regarding how people will be impacted during such an event, which is outlined below:

Cancelled trains

If a power outage occurs, trains will likely be cancelled in the affected area to prevent passengers from finding themselves stuck in the middle of a track with the signalling system cut off. Local authorities will be left to decide how to handle city public transport such as Metro systems.

Schools

The French government said it was working alongside the Ministry of Education to develop plans to close schools in the mornings if the area is to be impacted by rolling blackouts. Leaving schools open during power outages could have negative ramifications, considering a lack of heating, alarm systems and lighting. Schools would be open again in the afternoons, as power cuts are not set to take place between 1pm and 6pm. 

Emergency locations

The French government has said that these rolling blackouts could impact up to 60 percent of the French population. However, sensitive sites, such as hospitals, police stations, gendarmeries, and fire stations will not have their power turned off, according to reporting by BFMTV.

Some industrial sites have also been placed on the priority lists to not be impacted by blackouts.

For emergencies, people are still recommended to call the number 112.

READ MORE: Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Severity

Power cuts will reportedly not impact an entire region or départment, but instead will be concentrated to smaller areas. 

Up to 40 percent of people in France will not be impacted by power outages due to the fact that they might be connected to a “priority line.”

Additionally, in terms of who will be affected – it will never be the same area twice in a row and none of the more-than 3,800 high-risk patients who depend on at-home medical equipment will be impacted.

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