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Page added on November 1, 2009

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Winter crisis could see UK 'run out of gas in hours'

The UK could run out of gas within six hours this winter, the Observer has learned. The revelation has sparked a row between the Conservatives and Labour over who is doing more to keep the heating on. Last winter, the UK was left with only three days of reserves when foreign energy companies started exporting gas to supply their European customers after Russia cut supplies that used a pipeline through Ukraine.
A spokeswoman for Ed Miliband’s energy and climate change department said that under a civil contingency act he had the power to halt exports from the UK if the Queen had signed the order.

Charles Hendry, the shadow energy minister, told the Observer that the current minimum requirements on companies to keep gas in storage were not tough enough to safeguard the security of the UK’s energy supplies.

Labour hit back this weekend, accusing the Conservatives of “blighting progress” on building more gas storage facilities by blocking planning reforms proposed by the government.

If its storage facilities are full, the UK has enough gas supplies for about 16 days, based on average demand. France’s storage capacity would last a maximum of 91 days and Germany’s 73 days.

But National Grid has told energy companies that they only need to fill tanks by a minimum of 2.3% this winter. If all gas imports to the UK ground to a halt, for example if Gazprom turned off supplies to Europe, and supplies from the North Sea were disrupted, this amount would keep the country’s households and businesses supplied for just six hours on a cold day. In France, regulators require companies to keep their facilities at least 85% full from November.

The Observer



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