As UK gas production from the North Sea and east Irish Sea declines the country will become increasingly dependant upon imported gas. The UK currently has a low level of gas storage (around 13 days capacity) compared to continental European Countries (France has 122 days), having previously been able to rely upon increasing output from the North Sea and the east Irish Sea during times of high demand. However, the depleted gas fields in the North and east Irish Sea now provide an ideal gas storage opportunity for the UK.
In June RPS Planning and Environment teams secured planning permission on behalf of Centrica for the onshore elements of an offshore gas storage facility estimated to be worth around £300m. The largely depleted Bains Gas Field in the Irish Sea, close to Centrica’s Morecambe Gas Field, will be converted into a storage facility with the potential to hold up to 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The proximity of the Bains Field to the UK mainland and existing infrastructure means that the facility would be able to supply gas to consumers at short notice, greatly reducing the risk of low supply.
RPS is advising Centrica on other offshore gas storage prospects. RPS Planning Director, Geoff Bullock says: ‘gas storage is going to become increasingly important to ensure that we continue to benefit from secure energy supplies. Offshore gas fields that have now been exhausted are capable of being converted to storage facilities and have the benefit of being located well away from local communities who often have concerns over the safety aspects.’
The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has commissioned RPS to research and develop a Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework. The framework is critical to the sustainable delivery of WAG’s renewable energy targets, and must meet Wales’ social and economic needs, whilst not impacting on the environment. RPS Energy and Environmental specialists have consulted across a wide range of marine stakeholders, regulators and developers to inform a comprehensive knowledge base from which areas of potential resource can be identified and analysed for environmental sensitivity.
The RPS Marine Ecology team are working together with bird ecology experts in RPS, and specialist study groups to pinpoint the necessary specific studies arising from the information gathered, and structure the development of the strategic framework. RPS Technical Director, Tim Golding says: ‘RPS is committed to identifying and delivering the critical information needed to support the development of a robust and defensible strategic framework for the management of renewable energy developments in Welsh seas.’
RPS covers a broad range of disciplines for energy management, including planning, engineering and environmental consultancy, and GIS services.
1 Reduced from the originally proposed 20%.