Britain is facing a potential shortage of gas this winter after Britain’s main gas storage facility Rough has had safety issues this year, forcing unplanned maintenance on the facility in June have meant that it is only carrying around a third of its usual capacity. This could be a major issue in the UK as Rough is the backbone of the system and has been since its invention in 1985.
The Centrica owned facility accounts for 70% of the UK’s gas storage and can supply up to 10% of the UK’s daily peak supply. According the Centrica’s own website “We operate Rough, the largest gas storage facility in the UK 24/7, storing natural gas for our customers which include utilities companies, gas traders and gas producers. The UK needs gas storage as it can currently only store 6% of its annual gas consumption. This compares to France which can store 25% and Germanys 26%. Britain has not needed as much gas storage in the past because of the ample gas supplies from the North Sea, however those supplies are depleting, making the country more dependent on gas imports.”
The Rough field is based in the Southern North sea. Just off of the coast of East Yorkshire and is as noted above a vital ingredient of the UK’s energy mix. Earlier in the year several news outlets broke the news that Rough was struggling to meet expected and necessary capacity due to issues at the site. It was good news for traders at the time, but not so good for the country as it means that the UK will need to use more in the way of imported gas this winter, which will undoubtedly involve price increases being passed on to consumers. Though as a paradox this is also good news for Centrica, as they run British Gas. These higher prices will likely mean an increase in profits. They also run power stations which will likely help to offset supply woes.
The UK’s reliance on natural gas is very high with it being the source of heat for over 20 million homes in the UK. It is also heavily used for cooking and also as the fuel source for many power plants that supply electricity in the UK. It will bring more pressure to the need for the UK to diversify its energy mix. With “fracking” being a political hot potato, someone is going to have to catch it and perhaps even try to put a friendly face on what has so far been the boogeyman of the UK’s energy future.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.