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UK Natural Gas Imports

March 16, 2018

By Paul Homewood





Following comments about gas imports into the UK, I thought I would take the opportunity to clarify the situation.

In 2016, the UK imported 534 TWh of natural gas, 59% of total supply. Provisional figures for 2017 suggest a similar position.




The vast bulk of imports comes direct from Norway. Technically, Russian gas can only arrive via the Belgian and Dutch pipelines, which amount to 10% of total imports. It is estimated that 35% of Europe’s gas comes from Russia, so in theory about 3% of Britain’s gas comes from Russia.


From From the From Liquefied Total

Belgium Netherlands Norway Natural Gas Imports


2000 2,955 11,279 14,234
2001 4,015 12,734 16,749
2002 6,645 37,883 44,528
2003 4,387 71,755 76,142
2004 25,592 95,363 120,955
2005 24,108 127,894 5,453 157,455
2006 30,505 9,135 157,036 37,576 234,252
2007 6,471 76,602 225,764 14,903 323,741
2008 12,174 90,563 285,582 9,045 397,365
2009 7,945 69,529 274,833 112,238 464,544
2010 13,568 87,120 298,731 206,846 606,265
2011 4,032 69,001 249,643 274,794 597,469
2012 14,264 78,258 311,736 150,098 554,356
2013 35,367 81,519 318,634 102,620 538,140
2014 3,949 70,293 278,818 123,910 476,969
2015 2,116 35,933 307,943 152,406 498,398
2016 15,414 47,444 347,005 122,310 532,173
2017 p 29,428 20,766 393,417 79,128 522,739



As demand peaks in winter, imports from Belgium/Holland can rise sharply. In Q4 last year, they represented 19% of imports, and I would suspect that figure will rise in the quarter:




Although the main pipeline from Norway, from Langeled to Easington, is designed to pump gas direct to the UK, it does run through the Sleipner connector in the middle of the North Sea, which enables gas to be diverted through the network to continental Europe.

While supplies from Norway are protected by long term agreements, spikes in demand may not be fulfilled if demand from the continent also puts pressure on the supply.


Government projections say that consumption of natural gas will fall from 77 to 60 Mtoe by 2030:



However, this ignores the fact that gas consumption has actually been rising in the last five years. Although this is mainly due to greater electricity generation from gas, consumption of gas in other sectors has not fallen in the last few years, which makes government projections look optimistic.

Either way, this may be one of the reasons the decision to close the Rough Storage facility was taken. Perhaps they believed the Met Office predictions of milder winters!


The real concern though is what happens as North Sea production continues to decline in years to come.

  1. Richard Woollaston permalink
    March 16, 2018 2:58 pm

    It’s worth recomsidering the different fossil based energy sources and their optimum uses:

    1. Coal – ideal for centralised power generation, domestic heating and energy intensive industrial use (e,g, steel) due to its transportability and stability. Not suitable for transportation applications (apart from steam trains.)

    2. Gas – best used for heat generation as otherwise energy is lost due to conversion processes (e.g.power generation). Easily transported via pipeline and domestic gas network. Needs careful handling to prevent risk of explosion.

    3. Oil – Similar to gas but used for applications where high density energy storage is important e.g. transport and heating applications.

    We seem to have lost sight of choosing the optimum power source for the job, thereby wasting energy and depleting the wrong sources. If too much gas is used in power generation, for example, then supplies will be depleted in the medium/long term. Similarly with oil – don’t used it for centralised applications where transportability isn’t important.

    Even worse, we are converting energy from gas into electricity (energy loss) then experiencing further energy losses (approx 30%) in distribution before using the electricity to heat homes and charge electric vehicles. The net energy loss could be substantially reduced by using the right fuel for the job in the first place, and making sustainable policy and financial investments in technologies to allow these fuels to be used as cleanly as possible.

    Of course this is such old fashioned thinking it has now been airbrushed out of existence.

    • Keith permalink
      March 16, 2018 3:24 pm

      Replace ‘old fashioned’ with the word ‘sensible’.

    • Athelstan permalink
      March 16, 2018 5:14 pm

      good post,

      burning gas to generate electricity is stupidity on stilts.

      • Joe Public permalink
        March 16, 2018 9:27 pm

        You can thank Ofgas for that questionble decision.

        BG had the same opinion: up to the ~1990’s – ‘burning a prime fuel’ to manufacture electricity was a waste of energy, and refused to allow ‘its’ product to be wasted on public ‘leccy generation.

        Ofgas deemed BG had no right to dictate how gas should (or should not) be used.

        Burning it at the point of use was 50% more efficient, with consequent 50% reduction in CO2 emissions/kWh useful heat.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        March 17, 2018 3:50 pm

        The history goes back to the 1984 miners’ strike. The Thatcher government planned for that by ensuring massive stockpiles of coal at power stations, and an extra 500,000 b/d of oil for power stations as well. That enabled them to outlast the miners and break their power. Imported cheaper coal was allowed to replace underground mining. Meanwhile, UKCS gas production was increasing rapidly, allowing the “dash for gas” investment in CCGT capacity. The alternative was to export surplus gas to Europe – which in the end did happen around the turn of the century. Export gas earns a lower return because you have to pay for the pipeline and still offer a competitive price the other end of it.

        The choice between gas and coal generation is a combination of economics that depend on prices and relative efficiencies, and the benefit that CCGT offers in being more flexible in handling variations in load. YOu can only devote gas to premium use (i.e. burner tip at point of energy consumption) so long as there is sufficient premium demand for it.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 17, 2018 11:41 am

      Your figure for losses in electricity distribution is wrong. It appears to include the average thermodynamic losses in generation as well. High voltage transmission results in losses of about 2%, with lower voltage distribution typically accounting for a further 4%. Conversion between AC and DC on interconnectors can consume a further 1.5%.

      The energy used in pumping gas through the grid is a similar proportion – about 7% of throughput.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 17, 2018 3:57 pm

      The ‘dash for gas’ policy was to prevent the miners union and rail unions from holding the country to ransom ever again. At a Welding Institute visit to the JET project at Culham, this was discussed over coffee post visit. The assembled members all agreed it was an unfortunate policy since coal is best suited to power generation with pollution control as opposed to domestic heating. But the unions had forced this policy on government and eventually saw all their jobs go. In case anyone wants to whinge, Labour governments have closed more coal mines than Tory ones.

  2. March 16, 2018 3:51 pm

    Anybody who believes government “projections” and Met Office “forecasts” needs their head examining.

    I see that the GWPF is having a go at government policy:

    On a totally separate topic, I have been examining government “projections” of future housing needs. They are a total fantasy, with zero evidence base. That is one reason why I say that anybody who believes government “projections” needs their head examining.

    • Athelstan permalink
      March 16, 2018 5:17 pm

      The disaster prophets are experts Phillip, they tell us – all the time.

      Mind you, some people say that beware the ‘expert’, he might be an economist or PPE graduate and right at the foot of the pile – the climastrologists bottom feeding right next to the Wet Office blockheads.

      • March 16, 2018 7:46 pm

        Talking of Met Office (that centre of excellence, so they tell us) forecasts:
        The local lunchtime forecast (1.40pm) said we might get a bit of snow tomorrow, up to 4cm if we were unlucky. The local evening forecast (7.50pm) has us in an amber weather warning area with up to 25cm of snow tomorrow.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        March 17, 2018 4:10 am

        In darkest South Australia (no pun intended) the Weather Bureau prediction Thursday evening was that Saturday (election day) would be warm and sunny and 33℃. No rain expected before Sunday with a chance of a thunderstorm. Friday night the forecast was for warm and windy, 31℃. There had been a little rain during Friday afternoon but the forecast was still warm and windy on Election Day with a chance of a thunderstorm in the evening. Rain on Sunday.
        Election day wasn’t that warm, definitely windy with light rain starting in the morning. I abandonned duty at the polling station with both wind and rain (light) against me. If there isn’t a thunderstorm I will call the prediction a complete failure and wonder how what the chances are for their prediction of weather in 32 years.

  3. Joe Public permalink
    March 16, 2018 4:55 pm

    The Dutch are suffering their own relative shortages:

    Output from their Groningen field has been further scaled-back.

    [Groningen has higher nitrogen content, so lower calorific value per unit volume, than the rest of Europe / Russia.]

    The complexity of the European gas interconnections is shown in this detailed ENTSOG chart:

    Click to access ENTSOG_CAP_2017_A0_1189x841_FULL_064.pdf

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 17, 2018 2:33 pm

      The map actually shows that the interconnector pipelines to the UK are not supplied by the Nordstream pipeline form Russia, but instead from North Sea production (primarily from Norway), LNG imports to Dunkirk, and non-Groningen gas produced in the Netherlands. In effect, there is zero Russian pipeline gas that comes to the UK.

      However, 4 cargoes of Yamal LNG have now landed at UK ports, each about 1TWh since late December. The first went to Grain, and allegedly was re-exported. The second and third were landed at Dragon LNG in Milford Haven (the third following transshipment at Montoir), with the most recent at Grain at the beginning of the week. We are now importing noticeable quantities of Russian gas.

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    March 17, 2018 9:31 am

    Sorry to be slightly off topic, but I have just submitted a complaint to the ASA over the adverts by OVO claiming that their customers can switch to 100% renewable electricity. My complaint reads thus:

    OVO’s full page advert (page 8) in today’s Daily Telegraph leads with a banner headline:

    “Renewable is Unstoppable. Switch to 100% Renewable electricity from OVO”

    In very small print at the foot of the page the advert there is a conditional clause:

    “For every unit of energy you buy, we’ll purchase renewable certificates for electricity from various sources.”

    It is patently obvious that customers of OVO will not be consumers of 100% renewable energy; they will in fact be consuming, as all other consumers do, a mix of energy from various generating means. Consumers also do not any means, as far as is advertised, of being able to confirm that the energy OVO bills them for will be accounted for with renewable certificates’.

    It is impossible to be a consumer of 100% renewable electricity as a standard grid-based user. The advert is misleading and inaccurate.

    • Joe Public permalink
      March 17, 2018 12:08 pm

      The ASA should have an obligation to insist all suppliers of ‘100% renewable electricity’ specifically state that at any moment in time, the mix of generation determines the mix of electrons drawn off the grid.

      At no time ever, have renewables generated 100% of the grid mix.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        March 17, 2018 3:55 pm

        I am waiting for the electricity retailer to advertise 100% pure electrons.

    • March 17, 2018 12:37 pm

      They also have very prominent (and misleading) TV adverts running at the moment in our area (South Devon).

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 17, 2018 3:58 pm

      I thought the same when Bulb energy – supplier of 100% renewable energy – put prices up because wholesale gas had gone up.

  5. March 17, 2018 10:45 am

    If Rough storage was closed on the basis of ‘Government projections’ of future usage, that would explain the blunder.

  6. George Lawson permalink
    March 17, 2018 7:31 pm

    Why can’t the Group thinking British government go hell bent on fracking. We simply cannot allow a few silly people carrying poster boards to dictate the energy future of this country. For heavens sake get your fingers out in parliament and go for fracking big time and override these little people who you allow to dictate the economic future of this country.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 17, 2018 7:49 pm

      …especially when those few silly people….are being funded by the likes of Soros and – if we can believe it – Putin (protecting his gas).
      The government needs to change the meme: it’s not fracking; it’s shale gas.

  7. BLACK PEARL permalink
    March 17, 2018 10:08 pm

    Was talking to guy today who works in offshore gas, about the gas shortages recently and that I noticed at the time my boiler wasn’t heating the water as it should.
    Ignorantly I thought they must have lowered the pressure ….
    No he said they ‘have to keep up the pressure’ and they pumped nitrogen into the pipes to do so, while they were hunting desperately for supplies from anywhere they could get them.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 18, 2018 1:09 pm

      I looked at the measured calorific value data at various points in the grid since mid February. It did show some small variations downwards in some places, but under 2%. You might be at risk of greater variation if there is a local large biogas plant feeding into the grid.

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