Thanks to our gas network, the lights stayed on in Europe
4th Dec 2023
In 1914, at the outbreak of war, the British Foreign Secretary said that ‘the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time’.
Ironically, he was referring to gas lamps but last year, thanks to the UK’s gas transmission network the lights, industry and gas boilers stayed on across Europe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
What many people outside our industry don’t know is the role the UK played in keeping Europe supplied with gas in its hour of need. The gas interconnector, where the UK and the continent are linked by two gas pipelines, is at Bacton. A place in Norfolk few would have heard of but whose importance cannot be overstated.
At the height of the crisis, huge volumes of gas were being piped from the UK at Bacton into Europe to displace Russian gas. Heading into last winter, 20.5 trillion cubic metres of gas was piped over to Europe, representing around a fifth of the continent’s gas stocks. LNG shipped from the US, landed at Milford Haven and was used in the heart of Europe thanks to Bacton.
But it’s worth thinking about the consequences if we didn’t have this capacity. What would have happened without that gas? I suspect European leaders would have been less supportive of Ukraine if their citizens were going cold or the lights were going out. Then what? Yes, it is hypothetical but the global balance of power would have been shifted without Europe being able to support Ukraine and oppose Putin.
Those aren’t words I type easily. But the UK’s gas infrastructure was more important in supporting Ukraine than the majority of people realise. And oddly enough, that’s a problem. How can the public truly value its gas network if few know about the role it plays? I know medals can’t be given out to all those involved in our industry in keeping European lights on and Putin out, but once the war in Ukraine is over, then perhaps this country needs to recognise the role Bacton and our gas network played.