The UK’s biggest gas storage site has been brought back online in time for what could be one of the tightest winters for years for energy suppliers trying to meet the UK’s demand.
Centrica said on Friday that it had brought the Rough gas storage facility in the North Sea back to 20% of its previous capacity.
The site had been closed in 2017 as Centrica decided it did not make financial sense to pay for costly repairs, and the Government refused to help.
But as gas prices have soared this year, and supply from Russia to Europe has been cut off, the company decided that it wanted to re-open Rough.
Even at just one fifth capacity, Rough will be the UK’s largest. single. gas storage site, and will add about 50% to the amount of gas that the UK can store at a given time.
“I’m delighted that we have managed to return Rough to storage operations for this winter following a substantial investment in engineering modifications,” said Centrica boss Chris O’Shea.
“In the short term, we think Rough can help our energy system by storing natural gas when there is a surplus and producing this gas when the country needs it during cold snaps and peak demand.
“Rough is not a silver bullet for energy security, but it is a key part of a range of steps which can be taken to help the UK this winter.”
The winter ahead could be rough for European households and businesses as the whole of the continent has to deal with a total shutoff of Russian gas pipelines.
For the first time in many years, National Grid has included scenarios in its outlook for the winter which include rolling electricity blackouts because there might not be enough gas for power stations to keep running as much as needed.
The grid still says that blackouts are unlikely.
Many storage sites across Europe have filled up in recent months and will be key to ensuring that lights stay on this winter.
But the UK has very bad storage facilities compared to some of its European allies. UK storage is enough for nine days’ use, compared to 89 days in Germany, 103 days in France and 123 days in the Netherlands.
Mr O’Shea said he also sees a longer-term future for Rough where it could help store hydrogen, a potentially key fuel for heavy industry as it attempts to decarbonise.
“Our long-term aim remains to turn the Rough field into the world’s biggest methane and hydrogen storage facility, bolstering the UK’s energy security, delivering a net zero electricity system by 2035, decarbonising the UK’s industrial clusters, such as the Humber region by 2040, and helping the UK economy by returning to being a net exporter of energy,” Mr O’Shea said.