Minister expects lower gas prices

Lower gas prices were predicted by a government minister yesterday as he turned the wheel to open a key new pipeline at the Bacton gas terminal on the north Norfolk coast.

Lower gas prices were predicted by a government minister yesterday as he turned the wheel to open a key new pipeline at the Bacton gas terminal on the north Norfolk coast.

The new Balgzand-Bacton Line (BBL) means a significant increase in the amount of gas flowing into the UK.

And energy minister Lord Truscott said this would help relieve the pressure on energy prices.

He said: "What we expect to happen is that as the supply of gas increases the pressure on companies will be relieved and so the prices should actually be lower.

"It's important that we find ways to produce a healthy diversity of energy supply and do not rely on importing gas."

The new projects, coupled with the existing activities at Bacton, will ensure around 50pc of the nation's supply of gas will pass through the Norfolk site, meaning the complex will hold the key to the price of gas in the UK in years to come.

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Following a rise in demand for natural gas coupled with a steep decline in gas production the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on imported gas.

And as a result the prices for gas are higher and at the end of last year the country faced a threatened shortage.

The BBL cost £300m and will see gas flow for the first time from the Dutch mainland to the United Kingdom.

The overall length of the submarine pipeline is 235km, of which 230km is offshore, meaning it has a capacity to transport approximately 15bn cubic metres of gas per year.

It will be able to provide 8pc of the UK's gas requirement, so pressure on prices should be reduced as well as increasing the UK's energy security.

But while north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was "impressed and delighted" that the new line was ready for winter he added there was a sour side effect.

He said: "The way in which the company responsible for laying the pipeline behaved towards the fishermen and the neighbouring landowner was less than satisfactory.

"Obviously people's livelihoods were affected when this was being built and they were not taken into account.

"Just because there is a national interest doesn't mean you can treat the people directly badly or shun them."

North Norfolk fishermen and the owners of a caravan park neighbouring the gas site were among those who were deeply unhappy with the behaviour of the BBL company.

The fishermen's complaints centred on the way a compensation package to reimburse lost fishing grounds was discussed and agreed.

And the caravan park owners were angry about the amount of lighting and noise immediately out to sea opposite their business, especially at night.