Centrica has said it could keep its Rough gas storage field running for 40 more years through fresh investment.
Mike Orley, chief of staff at Centrica Storage, told Subsea Expo in Aberdeen about future plans for the facility, which reopened hastily last year as energy security came to the fore amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
If the plans go ahead, it would mean the field, which started production in 1985, would be on the verge of 80 years old as an operational gas storage asset.
Rough reopened at just 30 – 40 billion cubic feet of gas (bcf) capacit – a fraction of the 600bcf it once held – but the potential to ramp up makes the 30 square-kilometre reservoir the “prize asset” for Centrica Storage.
Before reopening Rough last year, the UK had around 2% of gas storage versus demand; dwarfed by European neighbours who generally have 20% or more.
The current 30-40bcf added another 1.5% to UK capacity, but “bringing Rough into larger storage, we can significantly add that and bring that up to around 10% storage to demand,” said Orley.
Rough, which lies 18 miles off the Yorkshire coast, previously accounted for 70% of UK natural gas storage, but shuttered in 2017 due to the expense of running it as a strategic gas asset without government support.
Centrica has several options ahead, with the preferred one adding decades to Rough’s lifespan.
Options for Centrica Rough asset
Under the minimum “base case”, Rough be extended for just 10 more years, but Orley said Centrica would much rather invest in new infrastructure to keep it running far longer, with hydrogen on the horizon.
“What we want to do is invest in that infrastructure and increase capacity, which increases the UK’s energy resilience.
“What we’re working on at the minute is creating new offshore infrastructure which will add significant capacity and allow for Rough to continue for the next 25, 30, 40 years.
“We’re looking at is infrastructure that will allow for methane natural gas storage for a prolonged period of time, while ensuring that infrastructure is hydrogen ready. So that when the time comes, when the hydrogen economy is ready, when the C02 is ready, we’ll be able to take advantage of that and transition over into that economy and provide that UK energy resilience.”
Part of the work includes development of blue and green hydrogen capacity with Equinor at the Easington terminal which can be fed into storage, or off-taking for decarbonisation at the gas facility.
But Rough was closed in 2017 as a storage facility because of a lack of government support for that business, and Centrica said it is mindful that a scenario like that could arise again.
“We do not want to be complacent and there is still the opportunity for Rough to be decommissioned again and we go into a decommissioning phase. Whether that’s the government doesn’t support that, the markets don’t support that – it’s something we ate still conscious of.
“But longer-term, best value, we are looking to reinvest in the facility and create capacity for the long-term.”