The UK is the world’s fifth largest consumer of gas, and by 2020, the UK could be importing 70 percent of its gas. To insure against interruptions to supply, for example in the well-publicised winter cold snaps of recent years, the UK needs to increase its gas storage capacity. By storing gas in underground caverns in the UK, we will be better able to meet the future demands for gas.
Whilst the Government remains committed to the decarbonisation of power generation in the long term, coupled with an increase in renewables, there will continue to be a strong demand for gas. The inevitable supply troughs in offshore wind, combined with the inflexibility of nuclear supply, will mean an ongoing need for gas to provide essential capacity for electricity generation.
In June 2017 Centrica announced that it is to close the UK’s largest gas storage plant at Rough, further increasing the need for the Preesall project. Rough opened in 1985 and at its peak could hold nine days’ gas supply which accounts for a massive 70% of domestic storage.
Currently France and Germany have storage capacity for 25% of annual domestic gas use, while Britain has only 6%. The closure of Rough will significantly reduce this figure.
Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) explains: ‘The closure of Britain’s largest storage site for natural gas gets rid of a vital supply buffer which allowed us to reduce reliance on gas imports. This almost certainly means greater volatility for gas prices this winter.’
‘Gas is the most important component in the UK energy mix and the end of unabated coal fired power stations means that, ultimately, there will be a shift to gas as the primary source of fuel for electricity generation as well as heating homes and businesses. Suitable gas storage solutions are vital to ensuring energy security, providing a certainty of delivery despite the vagaries of the global gas market and helping to facilitate the efficient operation of the UK energy market.’
Natural gas storage in salt caverns is a mature industry. Gas has been safely stored in underground salt caverns since the early 1960s, and there are currently approximately 70 salt storage facilities around the world, with many more under construction.
Gas storage in salt caverns is a mature industry with an unblemished safety record; there has never been a recorded failure of natural gas escaping from caverns in the UK.
Salt cavern gas storage facilities are currently in operation within the UK in both Cheshire and Yorkshire and are very common in Europe (especially in Germany). The Hornsea facility in Yorkshire has been in use since 1973..
Gas can be stored in depleted or depleting reservoir rocks of former oil and gas fields, where gas is injected back into the reservoir from which oil, and/or gas has been removed. A second option is salt cavity storage, where cavities are created in underground salt strata by dissolving some salt to form a pressure vessel and filling the vessel with gas.
Preesall’s geography is unique and it is one of the only places in the UK where underground gas storage in salt is possible. Extensive investigations have shown that the salt is sufficiently thick here to create new caverns which would be ideally suited for safely storing gas.
Read more about the project in our leaflet, Securing the UK’s Energy Future
By increasing the UK’s gas storage capacity, we can help bring down escalating gas prices and be better prepared for the cold winters of recent years.