As the UK Government works to protect consumers through the global gas price spike, ministers have a simple, no-cost lever to pull on.
With winter beckoning, the oil and gas industry is taking proactive steps to maximise supply of domestic gas to ensure continuity of domestic supply in the coming months. And we can do more.
Using emergency powers, ministers can adjust Schedule 3 of the Gas Safety Management Regulations. These determine the calorific value of gas that enters the network for domestic use.
Reducing the current lower limit by just 1% would permit the use of lower calorific gas – abundantly available from existing, producing fields in the southern North Sea – which has already undergone in-depth laboratory testing.
This modest regulatory change would reduce the current requirement for gas producers to blend below spec gas, thereby unlocking larger volumes to protect supply. The change could be introduced without delay, and remain in place for the gas year 2021-22 which begins next month.
Had these changes been implemented in September last year, approximately 13% more gas could have been exported from the Cygnus field over that period. If the UK’s regulations were at the same level as other European countries, we would now be benefiting from a greater domestic supply.
These proposed changes are well-developed and have been subject to extensive industry consultation. A broader public consultation is due to commence this Autumn.
The volumes of lower spec gas are not insignificant. Independent research shows that approximately 0.5 TCF of lower spec gas has been identified in the Southern North Sea – enough to heat 12.2 million UK homes for one year.
This proposal can enhance wider efforts to support households with their energy bills through the winter by demonstrating everything possible is being done to make the most of UK gas supplies.