Britain's running out of gas: just how critical is it?
With only two days' supply in reserve and more cold weather on the way, gas bills are certain to rise
AS BRITAIN braces for another cold spell, The Times reveals the country has only two days supply of gas left in reserve. Are householders facing sharp price rises or something even worse?
Why are we using so much gas? People around the UK have been turning up their heating systems to cope with the coldest March weather in 50 years. Demand for gas has been "20 per cent higher" than usual, says The Times, and with snow and flooding again disrupting large areas of the country demand isn’t going to fall soon. Parts of the UK have been hit by blizzard conditions today and higher areas have been blanketed by up to 16 inches of snow.
Why are gas reserves so low? Two factors are at play: the "dwindling" supply of gas from the North Sea and the "limited" size of the UK’s gas storage facilities.
So, how much gas do we have? The UK’s gas storage facilities are 10 per cent full compared to 49 per cent this time last year. The Times says the country has only two days' supply of gas in reserve, which means we are vulnerable if "a technical problem forced a North Sea gas field or an import pipeline to shut down". The Guardian reports the UK could "theoretically" run out of gas completely by 8 April, forcing suppliers to turn to imports from Norway and Russia and forcing prices skywards.
Is the UK in a worse position than other EU countries? Unfortunately, yes. The North Sea isn’t producing as much gas as it used to and the UK is unable to stockpile as much as many of its EU neighbours. At full capacity, Britain’s gas storage infrastructure can hold a supply of 15 days compared with more than 100 days in France and Germany.
What does all this mean for power bills? They’re almost certainly going up – the question is by how much. If the UK has to import liquefied natural gas to make up a shortfall, price rises could be "exorbitant", say analysts. Even if Britain manages to avoid disruption to the gas supply, "consumers will still end up paying for soaring wholesale gas prices through higher energy bills, which are already at a record level", The Times says. ·