Gateway Storage: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

A. General
  1. Why does the UK need gas?
  2. Why do we need gas storage?
  3. Why is the UK facing a shortage of gas?
  4. Why has the capacity in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) fields declined?
  5. How does the Gateway project work?
  6. When will construction start/enter operation?
B. Public Consultation
  1. Have you consulted anyone about the project?
  2. Is the local community supportive of the project?
  3. Have you had any objections to the project?
C. Location: Barrow & the Irish Sea
  1. Why have you chosen the Irish Sea (and Barrow) as the place to build Gateway?
  2. Did you look at other places other than the Irish Sea and Barrow?
D. Offshore Underground Salt Cavern Gas Storage
  1. Is the technology proven?
  2. Has offshore underground gas storage been built before?
  3. Is there any impact on marine life?
  4. Will shipping be affected and will any vessels be excluded from the storage “area”?
  5. What do the offshore structures look like and will they be visible from the shore?
  6. What about security and acts of terrorism?
  7. What effects will the drilling and the brine dispersions have on sea quality and marine life?
E. Pipeline
  1. What is the pipeline route?
  2. How deep will it be? How big is the pipe?
  3. Is it safe?
  4. Won’t the pipeline damage Walney Island?
  5. Have you surveyed the route?
F. Onshore Gas Compression Station (GCS)
  1. What does the GCS actually do?
  2. How big will the GCS be?
  3. Will the GCS be visible from Rampside Village?
  4. Will noise levels increase with the operation of the GCS?
  5. Will the facility operate 24 hours a day?
  6. Will there be any emissions from the GCS?
G. Socio-Economic Benefit
  1. How many new jobs will be created?
  2. Will there be any impact on fishing in the region?

A. General

1. Why does the UK need gas?
Over the past 40 years the UK has become reliant on gas for a major portion of its energy supply. This situation evolved as the UK had plentiful, low cost supplies of gas that were easy to access from the North Sea and Morecambe Bay. Gas is still a relatively cost effective energy source and it would not be easy for the UK to switch to alternatives overnight, even if they were available.

The UK consumes more gas as a proportion of total energy supply (approx 37%) than any other country in Europe. The European average is ~ 24%

Gas consumption can be split into the following categories:

Domestic use: 35%
Electricity Generators: 33%
Industrial use: 22%
Commercial use: 10%

Data source: DBERR stats: Natural Gas and Colliery Methane Production and Consumption Table 4.1.1

2. Why do we need gas storage?
We use about twice as much gas in the winter as we do in the summer (largely due to winter heating requirements). Historically we have been able to meet these winter demands from flexible UK sources of supply from the Southern North Sea. As the Southern North Sea supplies are declining more quickly than had been originally forecast, replacement supplies will come from other countries by pipeline (principally Norway and Russia) or in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas by ship (e.g. Middle East and Africa). Both long distance pipelines and LNG are designed to provide a constant supply of gas throughout the year. Gas storage is required to manage the differing summer and winter demand. The British Government, in its 2006 Energy White Paper, cites the need for additional gas storage facilities to be developed to improve security of gas supply and to balance within year supply/demand.

The storage capacity of the UK as a percentage of total demand is ~ 4%. This compares to a European average of ~ 20%

3. Why is the UK facing a shortage of gas?
The UK has been a net gas exporter to the Continent for the last 40 years, but the UK fields are now coming to the end of their lives and UK gas demand now exceeds our ability to supply gas from national domestic reserves. Since 2004 the UK has been a net importer of gas. Gas imports will continue to rise as production from the North Sea fields declines. Indeed, the Government forecasts that approximately three quarters of our gas needs will be met by imports by 2018, compared with about 25% today.

4. Why has the capacity in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) fields declined?
It’s a simple issue of the gas being used up and the gas fields therefore coming to the end of their lives. It is expected that gas will still be produced from the UKCS fields for many years to come, but the volumes of gas available is in rapid decline as there is very little potential for replacement reserves to be developed.

5. How does the Gateway project work?
Gateway will construct gas storage caverns within a large natural salt deposit more than 2000 ft beneath the seabed, and approx. 15 miles offshore from Barrow. Salt has been used to store gas and liquids for many years and it is a very safe method to use for this type of service. The gas storage facility will be connected by pipeline to an onshore gas compression station next to the South Morecambe terminal. Gas from the National Grid National Transmission System will be injected into the caverns when demand is low, and returned to the National Grid Network when demand is high. Each cavern will be approximately 200m high and 85m wide.

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B. Public Consultation

1. Have you consulted anyone about the project?
Yes, we issued an Environmental Scoping Document in April 2007 to a large number of statutory bodies and commercial organisations and have been in dialogue with a number of them since then (eg the Environment Agency, the Marine & Coastguards Agency and local fishing organisations). The competent authority decides the appropriate consultee list. Our role is to keep people informed of the project. We are liaising closely with Barrow Borough Council, BERR and DEFRA on the various technical and planning issues relating to our project.

In addition, we held public exhibitions for local residents in October ’07 and May ’08. All were well-attended and the response from people was generally very positive. There has also been regular coverage on local radio and in the press, so we can assume that most people living in the area have been made aware of our plans.

We have published “public notices” about our planning applications in Barrow's North West Evening News (and other newspapers), informing people of the applications and inviting them to seek more information and/or respond. To date, we have received just a handful of public enquiries about our plans.

2. Is the local community supportive of the project?
Our discussions with officials from Barrow Borough Council and the local MP, John Hutton, as well as those from other agencies such as Furness Enterprise, have been extremely supportive. They acknowledge that the project will be good to help support the oil & gas services industry in the area, while at the same time delivering a facility that is badly needed to support the security of our national energy supplies.

3. Have you had any objections to the project?
There haven’t been many concerns raised by people about the project. Some specific issues have been raised by people and organisations regarding particular aspects of our project which have either been addressed in the planning applications or directly with them.

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C. Location: Barrow & the Irish Sea


1. Why have you chosen the Irish Sea (and Barrow) as the place to build Gateway?
There are very few suitable sites which meet the necessary criteria for salt cavern storage in the UK. However the East Irish Sea has some of the best salt strata suitable for cavern construction, and is close to a main entry point into the gas pipeline network in Barrow. It’s an ideal site and has the added advantage, from a safety and security perspective, of being offshore.

2. Did you look at other places other than the Irish Sea and Barrow?
A large number of possible sites were assessed, both onshore and offshore UK. The site selected in the East Irish Sea was confirmed as the best offshore location for the construction of salt caverns by the British Geological Survey, in a report commissioned by the UK Government. The entry point to the NTS at Barrow also made sense given the town’s existing gas facilities and infrastructure.

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D. Offshore Underground Salt Cavern Gas Storage

1. Is the technology proven?
The technology is well proven. Salt caverns have been used for storing gas for nearly 70 years. The caverns will be constructed using conventional oil & gas technology, while the equipment for injection and withdrawal of gas is also well proven technology.

2. Has offshore underground gas storage been built before?
Offshore gas storage is used in a number of countries around the world, including the UK. However, these have been storage facilities based on the conversion of existing offshore gas fields. Salt caverns have been constructed offshore before, but not for storing gas.

3. Is there any impact on marine life? Has this been looked at by Gateway?
Gateway has looked extensively at any potential impact on marine life, as part of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment, a necessary and important part of the planning and consents process. While there will be some minimal disruption during construction, this will be carefully managed ensuring minimal impact.

4. Will shipping be affected and will any vessels be excluded from the storage “area”?
We have consulted the relevant shipping authority, and they are happy with the proposed location. The proposed gas storage site is outside any commercial shipping lanes. The facility will have an exclusion zone of approx 500m around each monopod.

5. What do the offshore structures look like and will they be visible from the shore?
The offshore structures wil be similar to some of the very small Southern North Sea sructures. The facility will have up to 20 caverns with each one having a dedicated monopod structure. The monopod will be a small unmanned platform with a top deck about 30m above mean sea level. They will be extremely difficult to see from land as they will be 15 miles offshore.

6. What about security and acts of terrorism?
The fact that the storage of gas will take place 15 miles offshore, and that each cavern will have a dedicated wellhead structure (as opposed to a central facility), is a benefit from a security perspective.

7. What effects will the drilling and the brine dispersion have on sea quality and marine life?
Our various expert studies, including computer modelling, have indicated that there should be minimal detrimental effect on marine life or sea quality. This has been an important consideration by the relevant authorities.

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E. Pipeline

1. What is the pipeline route?
The pipe will run from the storage area (approximately 15 miles south-west of Barrow), south of the Barrow windfarm, across Walney Island and the Piel Channel to the mainland where the onshore facilities will be located adjacent to the existing South Morecambe terminal.

2. How deep will it be? How big is the pipe?
The pipe is likely to be 36” in diameter and will be buried in a trench both onshore and offshore, just like any other oil or gas pipeline. The pipe will be approximately 30km in length from the GCS to the Gas Storage Facility

3. Is it safe?
The Gateway pipeline will be similar to conventional gas pipelines that make up the NTS which operate under strict safety regulations. The NTS which is over 6,600km in length has an excellent safety record so we are not anticipating any problems. We will comply with all HSE Safety Regulations.

4. Won’t the pipeline damage Walney Island?
There have been three pipeline crossings of Walney Island in recent years. All pipeline routes have been successfully reinstated. The proposed Gateway route will be relatively straightforward and will closely follow the Rivers pipeline that was installed in 2002. Reinstatement of the land and salt flats following the installation of the pipeline proved to be swift and successful.

5. Have you surveyed the route?
We have surveyed the pipeline route and consulted the relevant landowners. The following surveys have been completed

  • Phase 1 Contamination Assessment Report
  • Onshore Ecological Impact Assessment Report
  • Archaeology Report
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F. Onshore Gas Compression Station (GCS)

1. What does the GCS actually do?
The compression station increases the pressure of the gas when necessary: sometimes when gas is coming from the pipeline system into storage, and sometimes when coming out of storage and into the gas pipeline network. Gas coming from the caverns will also need to be dried due to the residual moisture present from the leaching process.

2. How big will the GCS be?
The station will be about 300m long and 150m wide and will be adjacent to the existing South Morecambe terminal. The highest structure in the new facility will be about 40m high. This is lower than existing structures in the adjacent facilities and will not have a noticeable visual impact in the area.

3. Will the GCS be visible from Rampside Village?
The majority of the GCS will be screened by landform and vegetation. Only the taller elements will be visible. With the South Morecambe Terminal in the background, the GCS will not affect the overall quality or character of the view.

4. 4. Will noise levels increase with the operation of the GCS?
The facility will comply with strict noise requirements and will be closely monitored by Gateway and the relevant authorities. The gas compression equipment that will be installed will be the most modern of its kind with high levels of insulation.

5. Will the facillity operate 24 hours a day?
The facility will be available 24 hours per day, but it is not likely to operate continuously for more than a few days at a time. Compressor operation will be subject to market conditions, so it is very difficult to predict how often the compressors will be running. We anticipate that they will run no more than 50% of the year.

6. Will there be any emissions from the GCS?

The air dispersion modelling results predict that the air emissions from the GCS will be within the relevant Air Quality Strategy (AQS) standards

The use of electric drive compressors means that there will be no additional emissions to air during normal operations.

All continuous emission sources will be subject to monitoring tailored to fit their composition. Gateway will have to comply with strict emissions limits under the PPC permit which is granted by the Environment Agency

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G. Socio-Economic Benefit

1. How many new jobs will be created?
A project of this scale and nature will mean a large number of people involved during the construction of the offshore and onshore facilities, mainly working for specialist firms. It will be our policy to source labour and services from local firms where feasible and we have broached this subject with Furness Enterprise to see how the local economy can directly benefit from Gateway. We have already received a number of informal approaches from local firms who have expressed an interest.

Gateway has the potential to increase employment opportunities locally during construction. It is expected that the facility will largely be operated by workers already based at Barrow, with perhaps a small number of additional permanent positions to supplement the existing teams.

2. Will there be any impact on fishing in the region?
We have been mindful of the possible impacts on fishing in the Irish Sea. We are talking to fishing industry representatives to ensure that we address their concerns as far as possible, and minimise any potential impacts.
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