Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Gas usage hits new high in UK cold snap

Gas technician
A record 454m cubic metres of gas were used on Thursday

Demand for gas in the UK hit a new record on Thursday as people continue to attempt to keep their homes warm through the severely cold weather.

The National Grid say usage reached 454m cubic metres. The previous record was 449m cubic metres, which was set on 7 January 2003.

An even higher usage figure of 460m cubic metres is estimated for Friday.

National Grid says the country is receiving a sufficient gas supply, despite a gas field problem in Norway.

The National Grid issued its second gas balancing alert in three days on Thursday, which is triggered when gas demand outstrips supply, asking suppliers to provide more gas.

The alert also tells big gas users, such as power plants, to curb demand.

Big generators, such as E.On, have both gas-fired and coal-fired power stations and can choose to switch between the two.

In total, 27 large gas users were asked to switch - 12 in the East Midlands and 15 in the North West.

National Grid are keen to reassure the public that gas supplies will not run out, despite criticism earlier in the week that the UK had the equivalent of eight days' worth of gas usage left in storage.

"This is not about a lack of gas. This is a commercial decision by companies to benefit from discounted prices in exchange for being flexible when demand is at its highest," said Jeremy Bending, director of network strategy.

Gas storage is like an insurance policy, BBC correspondent Nils Blythe says, which safeguards against extreme events.

"Britain has less gas storage than many other countries and therefore would be more vulnerable in extreme circumstances," he said.

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