Bacton-Russia link in pipeline

Bacton could become the UK's biggest gas terminal under plans for a new pipeline connecting Norfolk with Russia.

Bacton could become the UK's biggest gas terminal under plans for a new pipeline connecting Norfolk with Russia.

Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom is proposing a pipeline costing £3.5bn running 1900 miles across Europe. The pipeline would start at the port of Vyborg near St Petersburg and run under the Baltic Sea to Germany, then overland to the Netherlands and the North Sea.

The project is designed to head off an energy crisis in the UK. By 2006 Britain will be a net importer of gas as reserves in the Southern North Sea diminish and UK industry continues to consume more gas.

Russia has the world's largest reserves of gas, with Gazprom its largest operator.


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Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said construction on the pipeline could start as early as next year. Several companies have been linked as potential partners, including BP, Shell and TotalFinaElf.

Bacton handles around 25pc of the nation's gas each day from its four terminals, second only to St Fergus in Northern Scotland. About 400 people are employed on the 165 acre site.

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Much of the gas brought ashore at Bacton is exported to the Continent through an existing undersea pipe called the Interconnector.

This pipeline may be altered to allow more gas to be imported. Gazprom currently has a 10pc stake in the pipeline alongside other major gas companies.

John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said: "There is no doubt that by the middle of this decade Britain will become a net importer of gas and there will therefore be a market for imported gas. At the same time we are keen to make best use of the existing infrastructure and existing skills in our region."

David Duke, economic development manager at Norfolk County Council, said the Russian proposals were an interesting development.

"The potential to have a slice of the world's biggest gas supply has got to be worth exploring and an exciting prospect.

"However a lot of work will need to be done to examine the economics

of a scheme such as this and the environmental impact locally."

The Russian plans are not the only proposals to cope with the UK's gas shortfall.

Last year US oil giant Marathon announced plans for a £600m pipeline connecting the Norwegian gas fields with Bacton.

That plan has been shelved while discussions take place between the UK and Norwegian governments about an alternative pipeline, which would make use of existing infrastructure.

When the Bacton gas site was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1969 it was expected to have a lifespan of no more than 25 years.

But developments have given a 50- year extension to its lease of life. In 1998 Prince Philip returned to Bacton to open the Interconnector. In October 2000 the 468km Shearwater Elgin Area Line was opened linking Bacton to untapped gas fields off Scotland.

Fuel giants Conoco-Phillips, Shell and BP have permanent terminals at Bacton. From the terminal gas is distributed into the UK gas network feeding up to 20 million homes and businesses.

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