Like in most of the developed gas consuming countries, the French natural gas consumption varies greatly according to the day and the season. The distribution system alone, from producer to consumer, cannot provide all the flexibility required to handle such fluctuations, due to constraints arising from natural gas purchase agreements and the technical possibilities of processing, liquefaction, and transmission facilities.

As early as 1954, Gaz de France developed underground gas storage facilities for natural gas. These facilities have proven to be the only effective way to store the large volumes of gas required. For forty years, these facilities have fully lived up to their potential with confirmed high performance They have also demonstrated that they are environmentally safe and reliable.

In 1997,15 facilities are operated in France: 12 in aquifers and 3 in salt caverns. Their working gas capacity. 11 BCM, represents roughly one third of France's annual consumption. Two new facilities, one in a large aquifer in Aquitaine and one in a gas field operated by GDF in the East part of the Paris sedimentary basin since 1994, will be commissioned early 21st century.

To carry out its facilities development program. GDF lias made continuous R&D efforts. In so doing, it lias acquired a level of know-how that is acknowledged world-wide and benefits its subsidiaries and joint companies all over the world. New R&D projects aim at optimising the performances of the existing facilities, reducing the capital and operating expenditures for the further facilities, and developing unconventional facilities close to the areas of consumption even in unfavourable geological conditions.

Looking back upon long-standing construction and operation experience at more than twenty storage facilities throughout the world, thanks to its subsidiaries. Gaz de France is willing and able to become an industrial partner in storage facility projects which will be necessary for the future development of natural gas in all its uses.

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