Tuesday June 11, 2019

Gas storage in the UK and on the Continent are both continuing to fill up fast and are much higher than normal levels for the time of year. With so little of the injection season having passed, for storage to be at these record high levels could pose problems later in the summer, when assets are even fuller and demand even lower.

UK

Medium Range Storage in the UK is 66% full, with considerably more gas in store for this time of year than at any point in the last six years.

The high inventories are partially boosted by Interconnector (IUK) maintenance happening in April as opposed to June. However this schedule change was to coincide with a time when the conduit was typically less active. With just 5TWh of working gas capacity left to fill, IUK exports will be key in using up any excess supply.

In September 2016, storage was at almost full capacity and the IUK was flowing at its maximum level. This pushed prompt prices as low as 20.6p/th. However, this situation is less likely now as the BBL pipeline, which currently only flows from the Netherlands, is undergoing maintenance to enable reverse flows (UK to the Continent). This will open up a route for a further 40 MCM/d of gas to flow away from the UK.

Europe

European storage reserves are 100 times bigger than the UK with a working gas capacity of 1087 TWh. This is currently 62% full. Having entered the injection season at the highest levels on record due to the additional LNG coming to Europe, injections have actually begun the season fairly strongly. Additions to gas storage are only marginally below last year’s levels when the injection season began with inventories at record low levels.

Injections across Europe through summer 2018 run at, on average, 3.3 TWh/d. However in June, July and August this moved to 4.0 TWh/d. If we run at that rate of injections this summer, then storage will be full by the middle of September.

However, as assets fill, due to increased pressure within the facility the rate of injection slows. At this rate, European assets will be 90% full by late August. Assuming the injection rate then halves, Europe will have to accommodate, or see a supply reduction, of 1TWh of gas per day throughout September, that would typically go into storage. This is over half of the UK’s total demand on a summer day.

This scenario is likely to tip the supply demand balance and could put very strong pressure on gas and power prices later this summer.

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