Vitality corporations have urged the UK to take “pressing” motion over the quantity of “poisonous” and “hazardous” contaminants within the gasoline it’s processing for export to the EU.
They warned the issue may power crucial subsea pipelines to be shut down this winter as mainland Europe struggles to interchange the gasoline it often buys from Russia.
The UK has turn into a significant gasoline bridge to the EU since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, leaving the bloc dashing to safe various provides.
EU international locations are urgently attempting to replenish their gasoline storage services amid fears that Russia may minimize off provides completely.
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. That is then moved by way of Britain’s vitality system earlier than it’s exported by way of subsea pipelines from Bacton in Norfolk to Belgium and the Netherlands.
However a number of vitality corporations warned that in current months gasoline delivered to UK terminals has persistently been “contaminated” with excessive ranges of supplies which are usually “radioactive” and may burn after they come into contact with the air.
Eradicating the supplies has resulted in disruption that has price gasoline merchants an estimated £270mn to this point this yr and will power upkeep shutdowns if the state of affairs deteriorates, stated the companies.
These corporations embrace a bunch majority owned by Belgian infrastructure large Fluxys, Gazprom’s former buying and selling arm of which the German authorities took management this yr and rebranded Securing Vitality for Europe, and French utility EDF. They’ve known as on Nationwide Grid, which oversees Britain’s gasoline system, to take “pressing” 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 services, to fulfill demand at peak occasions.
Nationwide Grid has argued that if EU storage services should not crammed sufficient this summer season, strain to proceed sending gasoline from Britain might be “elevated and sustained” in the course of the winter. This might have an effect on the UK’s safety of provide.
Nationwide Grid is searching for approval from UK vitality regulator Ofgem to briefly improve the utmost potential quantity of gasoline that may be exported to mainland Europe by way of the pipeline to the Netherlands. However a number of vitality corporations oppose the transfer till the issue with extra hazardous supplies is resolved.
Interconnector Restricted, an organization majority owned by Fluxys which operates the gasoline pipeline between Britain and Belgium, stated it was “very shocked” Nationwide Grid wished to extend flows additional, given provides delivered to Bacton this yr have “persistently” been contaminated by “solids and liquids” which have constrained its operations and triggered two shutdowns for repairs.
The solids embrace “hazardous”, “poisonous”, “radioactive” and “pyrophoric” supplies, stated Interconnector Restricted in written proof to an skilled panel that met final week to look at Nationwide Grid’s proposal.
Rising gasoline volumes additional would imply the issue is “extremely prone to be exacerbated . . . resulting in elevated danger of disruption to cross-border flows risking each European and GB safety of provide”, added Interconnector Restricted.
EDF stated in its written proof that the issue has harmed the “effectivity and effectiveness of the interconnected GB-EU gasoline market”.
Regardless of this, the skilled panel advisable Ofgem approve Nationwide Grid’s request.
Senior vitality trade executives advised the Monetary Instances it was regular for some undesirable solids, sometimes called “mud” within the sector, to be delivered alongside gasoline however since April it had been arriving in “by no means earlier than seen portions”.
Nationwide Grid stated the “presence of mud” in Britain’s nationwide gasoline transmission system was a “historic and recognized difficulty and is one thing that we’re regularly monitoring”.
It stated “given [that] gasoline flows to the continent are a lot increased than these noticed in a typical summer season as a result of vital function we’re enjoying in supporting the EU with gasoline provides”, it was “not sudden” that Interconnector Restricted was having to hold out extra upkeep work akin to altering filters to seize hazardous supplies.
Nationwide Grid stated its proposal to extend most volumes by way of the UK-Netherlands pipeline would “not compromise security and safety on the system . . . or affect different prospects”.