Friday, January 09, 2009

U.K. to Store Gas Under Irish Sea.

A project costing £600 million has been approved by the U.K. government to store 1.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 19 salt caverns some 15 miles offshore to the south west of Barrow-in-Furness, once a renowned shipbuilding port. Britain is especially vulnerable to a shortage of gas-supplies and has only 15 days worth of reserve capacity. In comparison, France has 122 days worth and Germany 99 days spare. The undersea facility will be connected via a pipeline to an onshore gas-compression station in Morecambe, and it will serve much as a "gasometer", since gas will be pumped into into when demand is low and drawn-off to the national grid at times of peak demand. The scheme will allow us an additional 5 days worth of reserve gas.

Construction is set to begin next year, and the gas-store is predicted to be fully functional by 2014. The caverns are not natural but are to be created artificially in the layers of salt-strata that lie under the Irish sea. It is the first time that the strategy, which has proven safe in on-shore locations, has been used offshore. One advantage of having 19 separate caverns is that the facility is less vulnerable to acts of terrorism, although presumably the pipeline could be blown-up if someone had the wish and determination to do so.

In view of the current disruption of gas-supplies from Russia to Europe via Ukraine, securing greater storage capacity for Britain is seen as sensible, although the U.K. only gets around 3% of its gas from Russia, the rest coming from Norway, the North Sea (while it continues to produce), and in liquefied from from Qatar, which is stored in huge gas terminals in Kent and soon at a new facility at Milford Haven in west Wales.

All of this is as noted going to cost money and Sir John Harman, a former labour council leader and chairman of the Environment Agency for 8 years until last last summer, has produced a Fabian Society pamphlet "The Green Crunch" which accuses politicians of being "badly out-of-touch with reality", and in which he writes, "It is extremely unlikely that we will ever get back to the retail energy prices of the past 15 years or so. Yet I do not think this fact is being presented squarely to the electorate nor would it be an obvious vote-winner to do so. We need to acknowledge that there is, in a civilized society, a right to expect affordable access to warmth, light and the other benefits which energy delivers and that this can only be protected as prices rise by intervention, either in the energy markets or through the welfare system."

Sir John accuses politicians of failing to be honest with people about the costs of developing and delivering new forms of clean energy, as Britain bears the costs of converting to a low-carbon economy. He also calls for measures to combat fuel poverty, through price controls, subsidies or higher state benefits to prevent the creation of a new class of low-carbon poor.

Notwithstanding this fine socialist rhetoric, the impact of peak oil and more immediately "gap-oil" will act so ruinously on the economies of this country and the world that it is debatable what level of welfare funding will prevail in the next decade. The readjustment of life to a lower-energy economy may well force down the price of energy because we are using far less of it, but those accepted comforts of civilization will similarly be a thing of the past along with the cheap energy that has underpinned and driven such manners of progress since the end of the second world war.

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Yorkshireminer said...

I have got too the point where I bloody despair of our Politicians and the desiccated bean counters of the Treasury. I think they are so stupid that they don't know if they are on this earth or Fullers earth. They remind me of Napoleons comment about the Austrians, “ they always come with too little too late” a time line of five years 600 million pounds investment and what do you get an extra buffer of 5 days. The whole f**king affair is laughable. They need a reality enema. I wonder if any of the idiots have asked the simple question of whether they will be any gas to pump into the caverns when they are finished, or whether the country will be able to pay for the gas if it goes bankrupt. Britain is so far behind the curve that there is simply no way we will be able to catch up with countries like Denmark or Germany. When we had an energy strategy in the 60 we planed for the future. We were being proactive
I don't know if you know Chris that one of the Patents we picked up for free from the Germans after the last war was the Lurgi process for the gasification of coal. Dr. Bronofski was in charge of the project for the N.C.B. They built a pilot plant at a mine next too ours then they built a 30,000,000 pound production facility at Coleshill. The mine I was working at was chosen to supply the coal and was modernized. I wont go into the details but it was a hell of a lot of money. North Sea Gas came on line a couple of years later and the whole think became so called unprofitable whatever that may mean. They closed the plant down and our mine went with it. In doing so they sealed in 40 years of coal reserves. When you leave the countries energy supply to the world market, when you are a buyer and not a supplier, which has an attention span of perhaps 3 months, you are asking to be shafted. This is nothing more than a piece of reactive nonsense

Another point of interest you might ponder Chris, I was in Qatar when the Um Said gas/ urea plant blew up, I was 30 miles away in the desert when it blew up. I might not have seen an Atomic explosion but I have seen a mushroom cloud. The gas was pumped from the Um Bab oil field. Most of the Gas from Qatar now comes from a large field at the north of the peninsula stretching out into the gulf towards Iran, the largest in the world I think. I have no difficulty imagining what would happen if that went up either by accident ( murphys law ) or deliberately. All this investment will do is delay the end by 5 days.

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Hi Dave,

no 5 days extra isn't much is it? I am also scared at how vulnerable this country is and I agree we won't be able to catch up with Germany or Denmark.

Interesting that we are pledged to a low-carbon economy for Britain but I suspect that has more to do with curbing our use of depleting oil and gas than global warming.

That must have been one hell of an explosion to get a mushroom cloud. As you say, it doesn't have to be an atomic explosion but just a very, very big bang!

I guess much of that gas will come as liquid NG, probably from Qatar.



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