Centrica Storage (CSL) has announced that it will permanently close the Rough gas storage facility off the Yorkshire Coast, an important part of the UK's gas infrastructure.

Previously capable of supplying 10 per cent of the UK's peak gas demand, particularly in the coldest months of winter, the former offshore gas field has been closed since April 2016 for an extensive programme of testing following concerns over its safety. Following these tests, CSL has concluded that, as a result of the high operating pressures involved, and the fact that the wells and facilities are at the end of their design life and have suffered a number of different failure modes while testing, the company cannot safely return the assets and facilities to injection and storage operations.

The company said that an assessment of both the economics of seasonal storage, and the costs of refurbishment or rebuilding the facility and replacing the wells, suggested that neither option would be economic.

Operational since 1985, the Rough facility is currently the only depleted UK offshore gas field reservoir that is used for gas storage and retrieval. Several projects have been developed to use other depleted offshore fields but none have proved to be economically viable. The facility consists of a partially depleted gas field approximately 18 miles off the east coast of Yorkshire, together with an onshore gas processing terminal at Easington, south east of Hull. It is reported to have a storage capacity of 3.31 billion cubic metres, which is approximately 70 per cent of the UK's gas storage capacity (approximately nine days supply).

Nearly 200 staff and contractors are employed within the operation, both onshore and offshore.

The representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), said that the short-term solution for the UK would be to increase gas imports, mostly via ship, from places such as Qatar. “As we have seen from recent events,” a spokesperson said,”this not only has a negative economic impact for the UK and consequences for global emissions consequences, but is also politically risky when it comes to ensuring our security of supply.”

UKOOG chief executive, Ken Cronin, added: “The UK needs to ensure that whatever gas replaces that from Rough comes from sources that can deliver the same high levels of environmental and regulatory standards. Only the development of the UK’s onshore resources just a mile under our feet can do this, simultaneously maximising the employment and economic benefits that come with producing our energy at home.”