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France begins direct gas shipment to Germany: Operator

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France has started sending natural gas to Germany as part of its pledge to ensure EU energy solidarity as Russia reduces exports after its invasion of Ukraine, the French network operator said Thursday.

GRTgaz began modifying its pipeline networks months ago to be able to send gas to Germany, whose economy relies heavily on Russian exports that Moscow has slashed in response to Western sanctions.

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For decades, the French network was designed only to receive gas from eastern Europe.

“It's historic, the first time France is going to deliver gas directly to Germany -- up to now we were sending it to our neighbour via Belgium,” GRTgaz's managing director Thierry Trouve told AFP.

Volumes of gas equivalent to around 31 gigawatt-hours per day began flowing early Thursday.

The connection has a maximum capacity of 100 GWh/day, which would be the equivalent output of four nuclear reactors, or 10 percent of the total liquid natural gas France imports each day.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed in September to an energy cooperation deal that would see France send gas to its neighbour if the Ukraine crisis dragged on.

The supply would allow Germany to produce more electricity that in turn could be sent back to the French grid during peak hours, since around half of France's 56 nuclear reactors remain offline for maintenance or safety checks.

“If we did not have European solidarity and an integrated, united market right now, we would have serious problems,” Macron said in a televised interview Wednesday.

His government is urging people to cut back on heating and other energy use as winter approaches to avoid the risk of shortages that might require rationing.

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