Wednesday, 29 May 2013

UK gas supply and prices for winter 2013/14

Yeah, yeah, I know summer's not even started yet, but the UK gas markets are already planning ahead to next winter. Time to take a first look at how things are shaping up...

As you will remember, winter dragged on a bit this year in the UK, and it was only seven weeks ago that our gas supplies were running on empty. As I noted at the time, this leaves us with a problem, as there is now not enough time to easily refill the long range gas storage before next winter, as there are technical limits to how fast gas can be injected back into the store at Rough.

To illustrate the problem here's a graph showing long range gas stock levels for the past few years (click for a larger version):

UK long range gas storage level 29 May 2013
As you can see, we are starting from an all-time low and are several weeks behind the next worst case (which was 2010). Here's another graph showing the rate at which gas has been injected into Rough since the cold weather stopped:
UK long range gas storage injection rate 29 May 2013
Centrica have actually been making a good effort to get gas in there as fast as possible, actually setting a new record on 1 May, but there have still been some blips due to cold weather or other issues that have slowed things down.

So how has this been affecting price? The exceptionally low storage level following last winter represents itself as extra demand in the gas market between now and next winter, so it's no surprise that average wholesale prices are up 23% for the year to date compared to 2012:
UK gas buy price 29 May 2013

This can only translate into higher bills eventually, although the bumper profits made last winter may result in a short delay before this happens. Boosted gas prices will feed through into electricity prices too.

So what can you do? Well, the message hasn't changed - insulate and draught-proof your house, upgrade your heating controls and thermostats, get a new boiler if you need to. Switching supplier will make little difference, especially in the long run, so the only answer is to use less gas.

I'll post more updates over the summer when I see how things are going in preparation for the coming winter.


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