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Centrica Upgrades UK's Largest Gas Storage Facility

Image credit: Centrica Storage Limited

Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has taken measures to enhance the storage capabilities of the UK's largest gas storage facility in the upcoming winter.

Located in the North Sea off the East Yorkshire coast, the Rough site is back in operation after a temporary shutdown in 2017. The facility originally came into operation in 1985 as the UK’s primary gas storage hub, with a total capacity of 100 billion cubic feet. The site closed in 2017 due to the advent of LNG and the reduced spread between summer/winter seasons making it unprofitable to run. Since its partial re-opening in October 2022, the site is now back to being 50% operational, with a recent capacity increase from 30 to 54 billion cubic feet (bcf). This allows for approximately 2.4 million more homes to be kept warm throughout the winter season.

Gas Storage

The much-needed expansion of Rough will assist in balancing the UK gas market, by injecting gas into the facility in periods of excess supply, and putting that back in times of high demand. Its strategic location in the North Sea means it can efficiently store & distribute across the British Isles. Although the UK has diverse gas supplies with connections to various NW European countries, as well as 3 LNG terminals, it still has some of the lowest gas storage levels across the continent. An average of 12 days, or 7.5 peak winter days, pales in comparison to Germany, France & the Netherlands.


Price Stability and Relief for Your Wallet

As wholesale gas prices have dropped, Ofgem has adjusted the price cap accordingly, meaning a typical household will see a decrease in their energy bills. Recent Cornwall Insight forecasts currently see the cap hovering around a similar level through the winter months. The increased storage capacity at Rough will add another layer of price stability, ensuring we have a more reliable supply of gas in the near future. The added protection should help counteract the sudden price shocks experienced last year in the wake of major geo-political events.

Balancing Act: Managing Supply and Demand

Last winter, EDF & Drax were operating coal plants as a back-up power system, however both have recently confirmed these will not be available again having already begun the decommissioning process. Uniper’s Ratcliffe plant should still be available under a separate capacity market system this year. National Grid ESO said in June it expects the country to have enough electricity to meet demand this winter. They will also be running the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) scheme once more, allowing for bill payers to be compensated for turning off energy-intensive appliances, during periods of peak demand.

Green Revolution

Centrica’s long-term ambition is to create the world’s largest long duration, low carbon energy storage facility in the world, capable of storing methane & hydrogen. The reopening of Rough is only designed to be a short-term solution, until £2 billion can be invested to repurpose the site. Hydrogen would be generated by renewable electricity and stored either in repurposed gas wells, or under high pressure in dedicated storage tanks. Today, very little green hydrogen exists (produced from sustainable sources), rather blue hydrogen (made using natural gas). But a ramp-up is expected over the coming decade as excess solar & wind energy can power electrolysers, splitting apart the H20 water molecule.

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