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50 years of LNG– 1972: Fos Tonkin, an LNG terminal with an exemplary history

Developed in close collaboration with Algeria, the Fos Tonkin LNG terminal opened alongside the Canal du Rhône on November 6, 1972. Since then, this facility has received more than 5,500 liquefied natural gas carriers. It has played a crucial role in the emergence of the Mediterranean market for LNG.

It's name may refer to Indochina, but it owes its prosperity to Algeria. The Fos Tonkin LNG terminal at Fos-sur-Mer on the Rhône delta was officially opened on November 6, 1972 at a time when demand for natural gas was booming, and soon after the introduction of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. A few years earlier, on June 5, 1967, an agreement was signed under the terms of which Algeria would provide 3 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas per year to France over a 15-year period.

France and Algeria then had to put in place the necessary infrastructures. In Algeria, that meant a new liquefaction and tanker filling site at Skikda. In France, it meant constructing the Fos Tonkin LNG terminal dedicated entirely to the deliveries of Algerian gas that would arrive in huge quantities to supply central France and the Paris region. The terminal was designed to accommodate the then-new generation of LNG carriers like the Descartes, with a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters. The Gulf of Fos is a hub where three key arterial highways meet, and its calm, deep tideless waters rapidly establish the 17-hectare Fos Tonkin site as THE industrial center for the South of France.

Fos Tonkin embarked on its productive daily routine under the best-possible circumstances. Chilled to -160°C in Algeria, the gas is pumped as a liquid into a seagoing LNG carrier. On arrival in France, it is brought ashore in liquid form and warmed to regain its gaseous state. The techniques developed in both countries quickly pay off as new contract follows new contract. Until the end of the 1980s, Fos Tonkin provided up to 13% of French national demand for natural gas.

To ensure the future of this efficient supply stream, work was carried out in the 1990s to consolidate on-site safety and develop new shipment routes. Fos Tonkin expanded its capacity again in 2005 to handle 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. Another milestone was reached in January 2009 when Fos Tonkin became part of ENGIE subsidiary company Elengy.

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