Change of gas for thousands of customers in Hauts-de-France: a successful first step

Since 9 April, gas consumers in the Doullens sector, which has 10 municipalities in the Somme and Pas-de-Calais regions, have been supplied with a higher calorific value natural gas known as “H-gas”. Customers in this area were previously supplied with a lower calorific value gas known as “B-gas”.

This project stage was a success, as almost all of the 5,600 affected customers were able to switch to the new gas under optimum conditions. To carry out the change of gas, the installations of all these customers had to be checked and in some cases adjusted beforehand. During the first week of April, GRDF took the safety measure of suspending the gas supply to customers whose installations had not been checked. To date, nearly 200 customers are yet to receive a visit. GRDF has set up an exceptional system so that these customers can notify its services and be resupplied with gas as soon as the inspection is carried out. Over the past 15 days, more than 70 people (including 50 GRDF technicians and 20 gas professionals) have been working with customers on the ground.

GRDF has tested several operating methods and procedures in this pilot phase, working alongside local authorities. This first experimental phase showed that in 97% of cases, simply replacing the pressure regulator, or even adjusting the appliances, was sufficient. For appliances that are not compatible with H-gas, a system for financing their replacement was introduced specifically by the 2019 Finance Act. GRDF supports affected customers by working alongside the municipalities and in connection with regional gas professionals (heating installers and maintenance companies).

In 2016, network adaptations and modifications were made to ensure the continuity of supply to consumers. GRTgaz has launched a specific transmission network investment programme to bring H-gas to large industrial customers and to the distribution network operated by GRDF. To supply the Doullens sector, work mainly consisted of creating a new interconnection station in the municipality of Valhuon, involving around forty employees from external companies over a two-year period. Forty-five percent of the investments related to this work directly benefited the local economy. Following this first “change of gas” stage, two industrial customers connected to the transmission network are now supplied with H-gas. This pilot phase will continue until 2020 in three other sectors (Gravelines, Grande-Synthe and Dunkirk) in preparation for the general rollout from 2021-2029, which will involve 1.3 million households and around 100 industrial customers. B-gas currently accounts for approximately 10% of gas consumption in France. It is produced by the Groningen natural gas field in the Netherlands, which the Dutch government has decided to decommission ahead of schedule, by 2029 at the latest.

1 Specified by an Order of 21 February 2019 and Decree no. 2019-114

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