The official opening of the new underground gas storage facility at Aldbrough in Yorkshire, England, takes the UK a step further towards achieving energy security.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry in Aldbrough's control room
The Aldbrough facility comprises nine underground caverns that have been formed by using seawater to leach out salt deposits about 2km underground. The seawater is replaced by gas under pressure. Six of the nine caverns are already storing gas and leaching at the three remaining caverns has been completed.
Joint owners Scottish and Southern Energy and Statoil (UK) say testing has been completed on two of the caverns and that all three should be ready for operation by summer 2012.
When fully commissioned Aldbrough will have the capacity to store around 330 million m3 of gas, and will provide about 7% of the total gas storage capacity in the UK.
The ownership of Aldbrough is divided between SSE and Statoil (UK) Ltd on a two thirds/one third basis. The companies' total investment in the development and construction of Aldbrough is expected to be around £435m. They have consent to extend the Aldbrough development, but concluded during 2010 that an investment decision on the extension should be deferred while the UK government develops its policy on gas security.
Table 1: Annual gas consumption and gas storage volumes
Annual consumption (Billion m3)
Storage Capacity (Billion m3)
Storage capacity relative annual consumption
Currently the UK, which is a large net importer of gas, has a very limited ability to store gas reserves when compared with the rest of Europe and the USA (Table 1). The Government aims to quadruple storage capacity by 2021. In a separate project a cluster of salt caverns near Warmingham in England are being flushed of residual brine following lengthy geo-mechanical studies by consultant Atkins, to help EDF Energy convert them into gas storage assets.
SSE already owns and operates a 325 million m3 gas storage facility at Hornsea, 18km from the Aldbrough site.
Charles Hendry, UK Energy Minister, said: "Together with our domestic production and imports, gas storage is a crucial part of ensuring we keep the lights on. "This project is a fantastic example of how close co-operation with our neighbours can bring real benefits. The facility and workforce here in Aldbrough will make a vital contribution to the UK's energy security".
Alistair Phillips-Davies, Generation and Supply Director of SSE, said: "This official opening confirms the contribution that the Aldbrough development is already making to gas security in the UK and confirms that the construction of another of SSE's large capital projects is on course for completion in 2012. Ministers and officials are naturally keen to make sure that the UK's gas supplies can withstand unusual infrastructure, political or weather events and have seen for themselves the benefits that a new facility like Aldbrough can bring."
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