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27 September 2021

How the UK’s low gas storage capacity leaves it vulnerable

Britain has storage capacity for just 2 per cent of annual gas demand, compared with over 25 per cent in European competitors.

By Polly Bindman

As Europe faces an energy crisis this winter, the UK’s limited gas storage capacity leaves it particularly exposed to higher prices and the risk of shortages. 

The UK currently has around nine terawatt hours of stored gas reserves, compared to 168 in Italy and 151 in Germany, according to the latest figures from Gas Infrastructure Europe, meaning its capacity is equivalent to roughly 2 per cent of its annual demand, compared with 25 per cent to 37 per cent in Europe’s four largest storage holders. 

Ever since the closure of its Rough storage facility, owned by Centrica, in 2017, the UK has followed a “just-in-time” approach to gas procurement. A combination of cold weather, a surge in global energy demand, as well as dwindling supply from Russia, has caused a spike in European gas prices in recent months. 

The UK’s relatively low gas storage capacity appears to have put it in a more precarious position than its European neighbours, as it is forced to rely more on pipeline and liquified natural gas imports. 

In response to the crisis, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has described warnings about shortages as “alarmist”, adding that there is “no question of the lights going out” this winter as a result of rises in gas prices.

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