Change regulations to unlock more gas, driller says

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The owner of one of the biggest gas producers in the North Sea has asked ministers to approve a proposal he claims could unlock millions of barrels to help heat British homes.

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Neptune Energy chief executive Pete Jones said the government could make it easier for producers to supply the British market by allowing slightly lower grades of gas into the network.

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The small change will allow gas with a slightly lower so-called calorific value – which measures the amount of heat produced when a gas burns – into the UK gas grid.

At this time the low-calorific gas has to be mixed with the high-calorific gas before being allowed near the grid.

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However, Neptune said an upcoming report from the Health and Safety Executive could find whether it would be safe to allow the gas into the grid without first mixing it.

Mr Jones urged Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Grant Shapps to accept the findings, which came after a long-running review.

“The Health and Safety Executive has determined that there is no safety issue with such a change and a preliminary impact assessment has been completed,” he wrote.

“The final recommendations are due to go to ministers very soon and we would urge you to support this change.”

Mr Jones said one of his sites had to reduce production by about 17% of its total capacity last year because of the regulations.

In the longer term the changes could allow companies to drill for gas that could power more than 12 million UK homes for a whole year.

However, any further exploration in the North Sea could jeopardize the UK’s environmental goals. The International Energy Agency has warned that the world will have to commit not to drill any new oil and gas wells if it is to reach its environmental targets.

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