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UK-Belgium gas pipeline IUK warns Belgium power woes could interrupt gas flows

By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) - Gas flows between Britain and Belgium through the IUK pipeline could be interrupted this winter if electricity supply issues facing Belgium require the pipeline operator to turn off its electricity-driven compressors, it said on Thursday.

Belgium faces a struggle to meet power demand this winter after six of its ageing seven nuclear reactors are closed for repairs.

Its grid operator Elia (ELI.BR) has warned it may have to ration electricity during the high-demand winter months, while fears of a supply shortage that could see lights go out and trains stand still have pushed power prices to record highs.

IUK said that if there is a very tight power market in Belgium it could be asked to cut its electricity at the compressor site to zero during three hours per day and in exceptional circumstances twice a day during three consecutive hours.

"Recent conversations with our (power) supplier about stresses in the Belgian power market during winter 2018-19 have flagged the possibility that a demand response may be requested," IUK said in a statement.

As a result, IUK said it would only market 70 percent of its gas flow capabilities as firm capacity during Q4 2018 and Q1 2019 and would offer the remaining 30 percent capacity on an interruptible basis.

Customers taking interruptible capacity will be given the choice whether to reduce their capacity or pay IUK's additional costs for electricity consumption if a so-called demand response is issued in Belgium's power market.

"Although IUK considers the likelihood of such demand response request by the supplier to be low, if a demand response request is received it will have a significant impact on the cost to flow gas through the IUK interconnector," it said.

The exact cost of electricity would be determined after the event by the Belgian regulator, IUK said.

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)