EU race to fill gas storage draws record supplies from UK

The National Grid reported Wednesday that Britain exported record amounts to Europe in March. This is as EU countries try to replenish their gas reserves to prevent any interruptions to flows from Russia.

During the summer months of lower demand, Britain has often plenty of gas left over. There is also very little storage.

According to Reuters, 75 million cubic meters (mcm), per day are now flowing to Europe as a result, a spokesperson from the National Grid, the organization that oversees the country’s energy supplies, said.

Without giving any further details, the spokesperson stated that if flow rates continue until September, they could account for around 15% of Europe’s strategic gas storage.

Only 4% of Britain’s gas comes from Russia, but it does have the option to redirect flows through its two interconnections with Europe (one to Belgium and one to the Netherlands) if supplies run out.

A spokesperson stated that it would be “a last resort” and added that it was unlikely to occur as high British prices usually dictate the gas flow.

In part due to its insufficient storage, wholesale gas prices in Britain have been historically higher than those in mainland Europe during peak winter demand. It also depends more on imported liquefied gas (LNG) than Europe, which is attracted to Britain through infrastructure and price incentives.

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th and Europe’s rush to fill their gas tanks have driven European gas prices to new records. This has encouraged gas flows away from Britain.

Many EU countries still have not built up LNG infrastructure. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and has activated phase 2 of its emergency gas plan after Russia’s supply cuts.

Germany is a nation with plenty of storage that it is trying to fill to a minimum of 90% by November 1.

The European Union, as a whole, has historically depended on Russia for approximately 40% of its gas. It aims to eliminate dependence on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

It has accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon, but Moscow claims that cuts in gas flow through the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany result from the delayed return of equipment serviced by Siemens Energy in Canada.

Moscow also reduced flows to Bulgaria and Finland.

As it does every year, Britain will hold an exercise in September ahead of winter with the grid and the government. It will also work with the country’s energy regulator, the health and safety executive, and the government to ensure that its gas emergency planning is appropriate for the current situation.

The grid will first send notices to the marketplace to alert them to any shortage. It could also curb industrial gas consumption to ensure that households are connected. The spokesperson stated that it would only consider interconnector flows if all other options have been exhausted.

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