The distances between gas producing and gas consumer regions create a need for extensive infrastructure to move the gas. Because gas pipelines carry the bulk of production, they play a key role in supplying end customers, whether for domestic, community or industrial use. Total has had a hand in developing gas networks in several regions of the world for decades.
Natural gas is a diffuse energy, with a volume roughly 1,000 times that of oil, for equivalent energy. Its transmission is a critical issue, requiring massive investments in infrastructure.
Historically, the gas market has been organized regionally, based on production, in order to serve three main consumer hubs: North America, Europe and Asia.
Globally, more than 90% of natural gas is still carried by onshore or subsea pipelines, which remain the most common and affordable means of intercontinental trade.
Gas superhighways linking fields to markets
Once the extracted gas has undergone various treatment processes, depending on its composition, to meet commercial standards, it is transported via high-pressure pipelines that function like superhighways. Inside these structures that usually consist of steel pipes with a diameter of 40 to 120 centimeters, the gas is recompressed at stations spaced about 200 kilometers apart. Maintained at a pressure of 45 to 80 bar, it flows at a speed of roughly 30 kilometers an hour. A gas pipeline with a diameter of one meter can carry some 20 billion cubic meters of gas a year, or the amount of energy produced by twenty 1,300 MW power plant units.
The size of pipeline infrastructure and the complex operations required to build, monitor and maintain them explain why it is four to five time more expensive to move gas than oil.
High-pressure gas pipelines supply storage centers, major industrial consumers of gas and power plants. Low-pressure gas pipelines are then used to supply energy to other customers, such as businesses, local utilities and homes.
Continuing to invest to expand networks
Moving gas by pipeline bumps up against several obstacles. The topography of some regions can be a stumbling block. Gas pipelines are not appropriate for spanning long distances across oceans. And their onshore routes may, in some regions of the world, raise strategic and geopolitical issues. Shipping gas in liquefied form (LNG) in appropriate vessels is one way to solve the problem.
Producing countries want to optimize the monetization of their resources and importing nations, to secure their supplies. This explains the upsurge in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector. However, there is still a need to expand existing gas pipeline networks and create new onshore and maritime gas routes to meet growing global demand, support the rise in intercontinental trade and diversify flows.
Total, a major gas pipeline operator in France, Europe and South America
Wherever possible, we leverage the synergies created by the strong integration of our exploration and production activities with our midstream gas operations, which include transportation — by pipeline or LNG carrier — marketing and storage.
For example, we played a major role in developing the offshore networks in Western Europe located downstream of our North Sea production facilities in the United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands. We currently have interests in more than 12,000 kilometers of high-pressure gas pipelines in Europe.
In South America, Total is a shareholder in several transmission companies in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, which operate a combined total of around 9,000 kilometers of pipelines supplying these three markets with gas from our reserves in Bolivia and Argentina.
In France, we are building on the expertise acquired since we first brought gas fields on stream, notably Lacq in 1957. We played a key role in creating the infrastructure that crisscrosses the country and ensures flexible, secure supply.
Today, all gas transmission and storage operations in southwestern France are handled by TIGF , a wholly-owned Total subsidiary. TIGF operates a pipeline network of more than 4,900 kilometers, which interconnects with those of neighboring transmission operators in France and Spain.
An active role in creating new gas routes
TIGF has complete responsibility for all aspects of gas transmission, including design, construction, operation, monitoring, maintenance and expansion, in compliance with a legal framework that ensures fair third-party access to its network. Operational safety, network integrity and minimizing the impact of network modifications are core priorities.
Located midway between North Sea and North African reserves, TIGF occupies a strategic position. The linchpin of gas transmission within Europe, TIGF continues to invest to adapt the size of its infrastructure to new needs and expand cross-border trade. The Franco-Spanish interconnector was twinned in 2006 with a new pipeline linking the Bilbao LNG terminal to TIGF’s storage facilities. The commissioning of the Artère de Guyenne trunkline in 2008 makes it easier to move gas from the Fos-Cavaou LNG terminal to northern France. Total is a stakeholder in the terminal, commissioned in 2009.
Similarly, through Cepsa Gaz Comercializadora, in which we have a 35% interest, we acquired a major stake in the consortium implementing the Medgaz project. This 200-kilometer gas pipeline on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea will have an initial capacity of 8 billion cubic meters and will move natural gas between Beni Saf, on the coast of Algeria, and Almeria, on the coast of Spain.