Energy firms have urged the UK to take “urgent” motion over the quantity of “toxic” and “hazardous” contaminants within the gasoline it’s processing for export to the EU.
They warned the issue might drive important subsea pipelines to be shut down this winter as mainland Europe struggles to exchange the gasoline it often buys from Russia.
The UK has change into an important gasoline bridge to the EU since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, leaving the bloc scrambling to safe different provides.
EU international locations are urgently attempting to refill their gasoline storage amenities amid fears that Russia might lower off provides fully.
To assist these efforts, the UK has been processing giant volumes of liquefied pure gasoline arriving at its ports from international locations together with the US and Qatar. This is then moved by Britain’s power system earlier than it’s exported through subsea pipelines from Bacton in Norfolk to Belgium and the Netherlands.
But a number of power firms warned that in current months gasoline delivered to UK terminals has persistently been “contaminated” with excessive ranges of supplies which can be usually “radioactive” and may burn after they come into contact with the air.
Removing the supplies has resulted in disruption that has value gasoline merchants an estimated £270mn to date this 12 months and will drive upkeep shutdowns if the state of affairs deteriorates, mentioned the companies.
These firms embody a bunch majority owned by Belgian infrastructure big Fluxys, Gazprom’s former buying and selling arm of which the German authorities took management this 12 months and rebranded Securing Energy for Europe, and French utility EDF. They have known as on National Grid, which oversees Britain’s gasoline system, to take “urgent” motion to handle the issue.
Britain has been maximising exports to the EU this summer season as a result of in winter it depends on gasoline flowing again from mainland Europe, which has superior storage amenities, to satisfy demand at peak instances.
National Grid has additionally argued that if EU storage amenities usually are not crammed sufficient this summer season, stress to proceed sending gasoline from Britain might be “increased and sustained” in the course of the winter. This might have an effect on the UK’s safety of provide.
National Grid is searching for approval from UK power regulator Ofgem to quickly improve the utmost attainable quantity of gasoline that may be exported to mainland Europe through the pipeline to the Netherlands. But a number of power firms oppose the transfer till the issue with extra hazardous supplies is resolved.
Interconnector Limited, an organization majority owned by Fluxys which operates the gasoline pipeline between Britain and Belgium, mentioned it was “very surprised” National Grid needed to extend flows additional, given provides delivered to Bacton this 12 months have “consistently” been contaminated by “solids and liquids” which have constrained its operations and brought about two shutdowns for repairs.
The solids embody “hazardous”, “toxic”, “radioactive” and “pyrophoric” supplies, mentioned Interconnector Limited in written proof to an skilled panel that met final week to look at National Grid’s proposal.
Increasing gasoline volumes additional would imply the issue is “highly likely to be exacerbated . . . leading to increased risk of disruption to cross-border flows risking both European and GB security of supply”, added Interconnector Limited.
EDF mentioned in its written proof that the issue has harmed the “efficiency and effectiveness of the interconnected GB-EU gas market”.
Despite this, the skilled panel advisable Ofgem approve National Grid’s request.
Senior power trade executives advised the Financial Times it was regular for some undesirable solids, also known as “dust” within the sector, to be delivered alongside gasoline however since April it had been arriving in “never before seen quantities”.
National Grid mentioned the “presence of dust” in Britain’s nationwide gasoline transmission system was an “historic and known issue and is something that we are continually monitoring”.
It mentioned “given [that] gas flows to the continent are much higher than those observed in a typical summer due to the important role we are playing in supporting the EU with gas supplies”, it was “not unexpected” that Interconnector Limited was having to hold out extra upkeep work resembling altering filters to seize hazardous supplies.
National Grid mentioned its proposal to extend most volumes through the UK-Netherlands pipeline would “not compromise safety and security on the system . . . or impact other customers”.