Centrica welcomes pipeline boost

Centrica has welcomed news that the Interconnector has completed its project to double its gas import capacity.

It will increase from 8.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year to 16.5 bcm (about 48 million cubic metres per day.

Centrica, as a major user of the Interconnector pipeline, was one of the companies that helped to underpin the investment by Interconnector UK by agreeing to long-term capacity bookings.

Jake Ulrich, Centrica Energy managing director, said: “No-one suggests that supplies of gas to the UK market will not be tight this winter. But against a backdrop of recent comments bringing fear and anxiety, the doubling of the Interconnector’s import capacity is another signal that the first fruits of long-term investment to help this country’s energy supplies are starting to come through.”

This first phase of the pipeline’s enhancement was due for completion on 1 December but was ready to go on 8 November. A second phase is now under way, taking the pipeline’s UK import capacity to 23.5 bcm a year. That should be ready by December 2006.

The Interconnector is a 40-inch diameter carbon steel sub-sea pipeline stretching 230 kilometres from Bacton in north Norfolk to Zeebrugge in Belgium. It is owned by seven major companies – BG (25 per cent, the biggest share), ConocoPhillips, Distrigas, ENI, E.ON Ruhrgas, Gazprom and Total.

Interconnector Managing Director Roger Cornish said: “This is an important milestone for us and for UK winter gas supply. The enhancement project is a major development of our service and will move the Interconnector towards balanced import/export capacity, which will allow greater flexibility for our customers and the markets at both ends of our pipeline.”

On a typical peak winter day, the UK’s gas consumption is around 400 million cubic metres but has reached more than 450 million cubic metres in severe weather.