Austria Orders Industry to Make Switch from Natural Gas to Oil

(Reuters) — Austria will order industry and utilities to make plants run on alternatives to natural gas where possible, especially oil, its energy minister said on Tuesday, as the country scrambles to hoard gas in case Russia cuts it off.

Austria obtains 80% of its natural gas from Russia but most of its electricity comes from hydropower and it uses relatively little gas in power plants. Gas does, however, play an important role in industries like steel and paper, and in heating.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine Austria has been seeking alternative sources of gas while racing to fill its gas storage facilities before the heating season begins in autumn.

"Power plants and industrial companies will be instructed to upgrade their systems for dual operation to the extent that it is technically and economically feasible. That means that plants can run on natural gas as well as on other energy sources — in most cases it will be crude oil," Leonore Gewessler told a news conference, outlining an edict her ministry is drafting.

The measure, which must be signed off on by the main committee of Austria's lower house of parliament, is aimed at large gas consumers, Gewessler said, adding that the greatest potential was in district heating, which involves pumping hot water from a heating plant into consumers' buildings. 

In Vienna, Austria's biggest center of district heating, a large portion of district heating plants are gas-fuelled.

Gewessler was speaking after a meeting with experts on the country's gas storage that was called because of a slowdown last week in the amount being transferred to storage. That amount has since increased, she said, adding that there was no need to move to the second level of a three-stage emergency gas plan. 


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