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Gas supplies

Britain now gets its gas from a wide range of sources to make sure we always have the supplies the country needs.

These include:

  • North and Irish Sea production
  • Pipelines from continental Europe and Norway
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipped in from around the world.

Gas from fields in the North and Irish Sea typically provide around 40% of gas supplies. However production from these fields is now in decline and we are importing more and more of our gas from abroad.

Gas pipelines

One way of importing gas from abroad is through pipelines that run under the sea. There are currently four of these pipelines, which run from the European continent to the British mainland:

  • The UK-Belgium interconnector (IUK): This pipeline runs between Bacton in Norfolk and Zeebrugge in Belgium, and connects Britain to the mainland Europe gas network. This pipeline has an import capacity of 25.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year. It is the only pipeline that is bi-directional, meaning it can both import gas to Britain as well as export gas to mainland Europe. The direction of flow depends on supply and demand and relative prices.
  • The UK – Netherlands pipeline (BBL): This runs from Balgzand to Bacton in Norfolk. This pipeline has an import capacity of 14.2 bcm a year. 
  • The Vesterled pipeline link: This pipeline connects St Fergus in Scotland to a number of Norweigan gasfields. This pipeline has a capacity of 14.2bcm a year.
  • The Langeled pipeline: At the time of its commissioning in 2006 this pipeline, which runs from Nyhamna in Norway to Easington in Yorkshire, became the longest underwater gas pipeline in the world at 1,200km. The pipeline has a capacity of 26.3 bcm

Gas storage

Britain has over 4bcm of storage capacity that can be called upon to deliver over one quarter of national gas demand on a cold winter’s day. Gas is sent to storage facilities throughout the summer and at other times of the year to make sure we have gas supplies available when we need them.

There are two main types of storage facility:

  • Depleted gas fields, the largest is Rough and is operated by Centrica Storage, this facility alone can meet 10% of Britain's gas needs on a cold winter’s day.
  • Salt caverns are created when water is pumped into salt deposits that were created millions of years ago and lay hundreds or thousands of meters underground.  The water dissolves the salt before being pumped back to the surface. The process continues until the caverns  are the right size and shape to store gas.  When the cavern has been tested, gas may be pumped into the cavern and stored until it is needed. There are a number of such facilities in Yorkshire and Cheshire. These facilities can be filled and emptied more rapidly than depleted field facilities, providing a rapid response to short term demand increases.

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)

Britain has three LNG import facilities, together they are capable of meeting nearly 50% of annual demand, however the facilities tend to operate flexibly as LNG is traded on global markets.  

  • Dragon at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire
  • Isle of Grain, Kent
  • South Hook, Pembrokeshire
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