Posted BY: Mathieu Rosemain and Leigh Thomas

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) – France’s energy-intensive companies are speeding up contingency plans and converting their gas boilers to run on oil as they seek to avoid disruption in the event any further reduction in Russian gas supplies leads to power outages.

Gathered over the weekend at a business and economics conference in southern France, several top executives said they were preparing for possible blackouts.

“What we’ve done is we’ve converted our boilers, so they’re capable of running on gas or oil, and we can even switch to coal if we need to,” said Florent Menegaux, the boss of Michelin, one of the world’s leading tyre-makers.

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“The aim is to avoid having to shut down a plant in case we face a shortage,” he added, saying that while a gas shortage in Europe was likely, oil would still be available as an alternative.

It takes days to start up tyre production at a manufacturing plant, Menegaux said, making it essential to maintain a steady energy supply.

Russia in June reduced flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, its main route for shipping gas into western Europe, to 40% of capacity. Politicians and industry are concerned there will be further supply constraints linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation”.

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