Our North Sea gas reserves are dwindling. The UK imports a growing proportion of its natural gas, posing a potential risk to the security of our gas supply.
In 2013, 63% of the natural gas used in the UK was imported. National Grid forecast that by 2030 up to 87% of gas could be imported.
Of the gas imported into the UK, 80% arrives via pipeline from Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. The other 20% is imported by sea as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Importing a high proportion of our gas means we must compete on the world market for supplies.
Global demand for gas
The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects global demand for gas to continue increasing. The IEA predicts that China will become a larger gas consumer than the EU by 2030.
The UK Government has warned that remaining heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels could expose us to the risks of supply shortage and price volatility.
UK energy companies have already begun to improve the security of their gas supplies. The Interconnector pipeline now joins the UK to Belgium, while the Langeled pipeline brings gas to the UK from Norway. Facilities for unloading and processing liquefied natural gas (LNG) have also been built, which allow gas to be imported from anywhere in the world.
Located under the North Sea, gas storage facilities such as Rough increase the security of UK supplies by allowing gas to be stockpiled.
The UK may also exploit untapped gas such as shale, further diversifying sources. Estimates suggest that extensive reserves of shale gas can be found around the world, including in Europe. Extraction is expensive, comes at a high environmental cost and is carbon-intensive, but it could ease security concerns by bolstering global gas supplies.
Improved energy efficiency could also reduce consumer demand for gas, and by moving to a broader energy mix, the UK can lessen gas security risks.