Frozen Britain faces winter energy crisis

Explosion at gas processing plant interrupts supply across Europe and sends prices soaring

UK consumers are facing a surge in gas prices as demand outstrips supply

Britain faces a winter energy crisis after a massive gas explosion in Austria and the closure of the North Sea’s most important pipeline sent prices surging as demand for heat reached highs not seen in five years.

The deadly explosion that ripped through a processing plant on Austria’s main gas pipeline yesterday threatens gas supply to the whole of Western Europe. The Baumgarten facility is effectively the main entry point for Russian gas, which makes up a third of the continent’s overall supply.

Gas giant Gazprom Export said it was trying to redirect gas flows and secure uninterrupted supplies following the explosion, but this has done little to reassure suppliers, sending gas prices in Europe soaring.

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Italy has already declared a state of emergency due to a lack of supplies, while in Britain, Europe’s biggest gas market, the price of gas for immediate delivery rose 35% to 92p per therm, its highest level for four years.

The effect of the explosion has been compounded by the discovery of a major crack in the North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline system, “creating a perfect storm of disruption to gas supply across Europe”, says The Daily Telegraph.

It is believed the 42-year-old Forties pipeline could remain shut until January, wiping out 40 million cubic metres of gas – or afrom the UK’s gas supplies every day, or a third of normal domestic production.

The disruption could not have come at a worst time, with Britain experiencing a cold snap which has seen temperatures plummet as low as -13C in some areas.

According to Thomson Reuters, the weather has driven gas demand in homes and businesses to their highest forecast levels since early 2013.

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