UK energy minister opens Milford Haven gas pipeline
The gas pipeline connecting two new LNG import terminals at Milford Haven, Wales, with the British pipeline network was opened on Tuesday by UK Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks. However, the inauguration of the line offers little succour to those worried about high gas prices this winter, as the operators of both terminals, Dragon and South Hook, have said they will not be ready until around the middle of next year.
National Grid’s (NG) executive director of transmission operations, Nick Winser, told Heren Energy the pipeline was being commissioned in sections: “The current capacity is from the connecting pipeline from Milford Haven to Aberdulais, which is 220 GWh/day [20.5 million cubic metres/d]. We are expecting to fully commission the Felindre Tirley pipeline in mid-/late December, and that will give us capacity of 570 GWh/day. And that rises to 760 GWh/day at the end of February, when Cilfrew – a pressure reduction station at the end of the Milford Haven-Aberdulais pipeline – is commissioned.” NG’s obligation to the LNG shippers is a maximum of 650 GWh/d, equivalent to 42,900 tonnes of LNG, or a medium-sized cargo.
Wicks officially marked the completion of NG’s new 316km Milford Haven-to-Tirley natural gas pipeline by opening a valve to let gas into the final section to be commissioned, between Felindre and Brecon. The opening follows weeks of testing on different sections of the line, and means NG has managed to complete the bulk of the work within the three-year deadline, at a cost of around £1 billion (EUR 1.4 billion).
The eventual capacity will be equivalent to about 20% of the UK’s gas demand. Both the South Hook and Dragon terminals will be able to send out regasified LNG simultaneously at full capacity, should they have the LNG to do so.
Utilisation for the first few years of the terminals is difficult to predict. In July, Centrica and Petronas cancelled (by mutual consent) a supply contract for delivery of an average annual volume of 3 billion cubic metres. ExxonMobil Gas Marketing Europe, marketer of the gas from the South Hook terminal, is rumoured to have had little success when it tried to forge sales agreements with major industrial gas users earlier this year.
Opening the valve, Wicks said: “In the past, Wales’ gas has been piped through England and Scotland. Now, for the first time, Wales is at the front end of the UK’s gas supply system. The new pipeline will also allow further economic development in south Wales, with new power stations and industrial expansion possible.”
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