Tories worried by low gas storage levels

By politics.co.uk staff

Britain had just four days of natural gas in storage during the recent cold weather, it has been revealed.

Figures from the National Grid showed a new low of 11,830 GWh on February 20th, enough to meet four days of average gas demand.

The Conservatives have accused the government of complacency on the issue. They warned ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia threaten further disruptions to supply for European markets, which were badly hit in the new year when a pricing dispute led to Russia halting supplies.

“Our gas stores today are more than a third below the volumes held when in March 2006 when the National Grid issued a gas balancing alert, warning of the prospect of needing emergency measures,” shadow energy and climate change secretary Greg Clark said.

“It is only the fact of reduced demand due to the recession that has prevented this situation from becoming an emergency. Ministers are being remarkably complacent in the face of this acute situation.”

The government dismissed concerns about the vulnerability of Britain’s gas supply, however, describing the gas storage capacity in days as a “meaningless” measure.

“We get most of our gas from the North Sea and imports from Norway so we have less need for dedicated storage in comparison to other countries which are more heavily dependent on imports,” energy and climate change minister Mike O’Brien said.

“Of course as our supplies in the North Sea decline we continue to diversify our gas supply. We take the issue very seriously and want more storage to be built.”

Plans to develop the second largest offshore storage facility announced last week by Centrica have been welcomed by Mr O’Brien, who also pointed out that import infrastructure is being expanded.