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FRANKFURT: German utility RWE could prolong the operation of three 300 megawatt (MW) brown coal power plants if required during the gas supply crisis triggered by lower Russian exports.

The statement came in reply to an enquiry after the Berlin Economy Ministry on Sunday announced the latest steps to boost gas storage levels for next winter, mentioning more coal burning for power in order to spare gas which is needed for use in industrial processes.

The ministry had identified the Neurath C and Niederaussem E and F plants on a list of possible stand-by facilities drawn up at the end of May in case of severe disruption to Russian gas supplies.

Separately, hard coal generator Steag said it was ready to offer more capacity on a temporary basis should the government require it.

Steag, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, postponed the conversion of the 450 MW Herne 4 hard coal unit to gas burning by a year to ensure supply security for its district heat provision in the coming winter.

Its hard coal-fired plants Bexbach, Bergkamen and Weiher have been declared system-relevant, which means they have to be kept open in return for compensation, while relevant decisions are due for two units at Voelklingen Fenne at the end of October.

Southwest Germany’s EnBW, which bought 3.6 million tonnes of Russian coal last year for its power and heat operations, said that it was constantly monitoring the need to adjust coal logistics and manpower. In the absence of a relevant law, the company could not comment further, a spokesperson said.

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