Six wells permanently closed at Rough gas storage facility

Centrica Storage has permanently closed six of the 30 wells at its Rough gas storage facility in the North Sea.

The closure will cut the facility’s overall withdrawal capacity by 1.7 to 3.3 million cubic metres per day – around 8 per cent of the total.

“After 40 years of service, [Centrica Storage] has concluded that, having regard to its age, condition and design-life, it is no longer feasible to operate the 47/8A installation,” the company said in a market update. “It is therefore permanently withdrawing the installation from service.”

The operator said the closure will have a “minimal impact on Rough’s capabilities” as two of the wells have been plugged for several years and the remaining four have only been used for production.

In August last year, Centrica Storage extended the usual annual maintenance period for the installation to the end of the December. Beginning in the new year it withdrew the wells from service for the rest of the 2016/16 season.

Towards the end of March, it announced it was extending the suspension through to the end of summer, whilst it examined the feasibility of continuing to use the installation. The company said it was therefore “prepared for the possibility that it would never return to service”.

Gas prices rocketed up in July, after Centrica Storage announced the complete shutdown of the Rough facility over the coming winter as it extended a 42-day testing programme through to March or April next year.

Last month, the company said 20 of the wells will be available for withdrawals from 1 November, although they will not be available for injection due to the testing programme.

The Rough facility has a storage capacity of 3.3 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas – equating to 70 per cent of the UK total. The gas is injected into, and withdrawn from, a partially depleted gas field, located 18 miles off the coast of Yorkshire.

The natural reservoir is currently holding just 1.3 bcm of gas. The suspension of injections means that is all that will be available to withdraw over the coming winter.

Consultancy firm Mitie Energy has said the ongoing isssues at Rough “have left many questioning the UK’s lack of gas storage capacity compared with other large European gas markets”.  It called for the UK to make better use of its interconnectors to improve access to existing storage on the continent, rather than building new facilities in Britain.