Bacton fault sparks record gas price surge

Picture shows; Bacton: A comprehensive view of the Bacton Gas terminal which sends gas to the cont

Picture shows; Bacton: A comprehensive view of the Bacton Gas terminal which sends gas to the continent via its Interconnector. Gas first came ashore here in 1968 from the Leman field. Aerial images from Mike Page's new book; Norfolk Coast From The Air as featured in the EDP supplement, SkyCamera, May 2006. Varoius images of the coastline, housing and erosion from the air. All pictures by Mike Page - Credit: Mike Page

Norfolk was at the centre of a record surge in gas prices yesterday when a fault at the Bacton terminal caused a major import pipeline to be shut down.

The Bacton Gas Terminal. Photo: Simon Finlay; Copy:; For: EDP News; EDP pics © 2008; (01603) 772434

The Bacton Gas Terminal. Photo: Simon Finlay; Copy:; For: EDP News; EDP pics © 2008; (01603) 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2008

A water pump failure in the UK-Belgium Interconnector – one of Britain's three import pipelines from Europe – sparked the price in British wholesale gas to rocket to a seven year high.

Downing Street last night insisted the country's gas supplies were not running out after fears were raised that the country was on the brink of being exposed by its dwindling gas stores that had been hit by an increased demand for household heating due to a prolonged spell of wintery weather

A government spokesman denied the country was on the verge of seeing the lights go out after it emerged that Britain may have as little as two day's worth of gas in its reserves, which are likely to come under further pressure from a fresh bout of cold weather forecast for the weekend.

However, experts said that the East could hold the key to bringing greater energy security to Britain, after revealing that a new venture between British Gas owners Centrica and Great Yarmouth-based Perenco UK was working on a plan to store natural gas in an existing offshore reservoir created in the depleted Baird field off the Norfolk coast.


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James Gray, inward investment director at the East of England Energy Group, said the region had a pivotal role to play in gas storage.

'Depleted gas fields in the southern North Sea have massive potential as gas storage facilities plus we have the infrastructure in facilities like Bacton to pump the gas into the national network,' he said. 'Our businesses have the expertise to deliver this.

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'Centrica Storage and Perenco UK have come together in a joint venture, Bacton Storage Company Limited (BSCL), with the objective of storing natural gas in an existing offshore reservoir created in the depleted Baird field off the Norfolk coast.'

He added: 'The challenge facing our energy supply is no great surprise. Analysts and the industry have been flagging this up for years. 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.

Gas flow to the Bacton gas terminal – where 30pc of Britain's gas flows into Norfolk – was shut down at 7am, before the problem was fixed by engineers and flow returned to full capacity at 3.30pm.

Gas prices for within-day delivery rose to 150p a term, more than 50pc above Thursday's closing price.

Interconnector stated on its website: 'Interconnector UK Ltd (IUK) can confirm that there has been a technical issue at its Bacton site and it has stopped gas flow into the UK. The problem occurred at approximately 0700 UKT today and has been diagnosed as a water pump failure in the Boiler House.'

The government insisted that gas storage was not the primary supply for the country's gas needs.

A Downing Street spokesman said: 'The absolute key thing on this is that supplies are not running out.

'The gas market is how we source our supplies and that market continues to function well.'

Meanwhile, a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spokeswoman said: 'Protracted cold weather increases demand but the UK gas market is responsive and our gas needs are continuing to be met.

'Gas storage would never be the sole source of gas meeting our needs, so it is misleading to talk purely about how many days' supply is in storage.'

She said that while half of the nation's gas needs were supplied from the North Sea, there were also pipelines from Norway and elsewhere in Europe, shipments of liquefied natural gas and storage.

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