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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Gas pipeline disrupts rural life
By Mark Simpson
North of England correspondent

Britain's energy shortage is making life uncomfortable for all creatures great and small in Yorkshire.

pipeline
The pipeline will carry imported Norwegian gas
A massive new underground pipeline - for imported Norwegian gas - is being built across the north of England, and is turning some of the country's greenest fields to brown.

For cattle and sheep in northern parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, there's an unwelcome visitor to their tranquil surroundings - an ugly 4ft-wide pipe.

And for the farmers, there's widespread disruption, a huge hole in their fields and a mass of machinery on land which used to feature on picture postcards.

If visitors to Ilkley Moor this summer look north, they'll see the dark brown outline of the pipeline as it snakes its way up hill and down dale.

It stretches from Easington on the east coast, to Nether Kellet near Lancaster on the other side of the Pennines. It runs for 150 miles, almost coast to coast.

Farmers compensated

The good news for the farmers is that they are being compensated, and those in charge of the project, the National Grid, insist that within a year all traces of the pipeline will be gone.

pipeline
The pipeline helps secure a gas supply route, at a time when Britain's energy demands need all the help they can get.
BBC's Mark Simpson
Project manager Philip Knipe said: "We will be paying particular attention to restoring the local landscape to its former appearance, returning the topsoil, replanting hedgerows and restoring dry stone walls.

"Within a matter of months, the signs of our presence will start to disappear and by next summer, the path taken by the pipeline will be extremely difficult to pick out.

"Obviously while work is under way, there will be disruption to local people but we will do everything within our power to keep this to a minimum."

The pipeline is being built in four different sections, and will eventually link up with gas from the Ormen Lange gas-field off the coast of Norway.

The gas will reach the UK via the longest sub-sea pipeline ever constructed.

Like most things involving gas, it doesn't come cheap. The north of England pipeline is estimated to cost 1 million per km - and it runs for almost 240km.

But will it make any difference to our gas bills?

In theory, yes.

'Prices fall'

This is what the managing director of British Gas, Mark Clare, recently told a parliamentary committee: "We believe that if the infrastructure that's due to come on over this next winter arrives, and that the contracts that we have in place deliver the gas, then we will start to see prices fall."

pipeline near Harrogate
The pipeline can be seen snaking along fields near Harrogate

The new pipeline and the Norwegian link is part of that improving infrastructure.

But there are no guarantees in the energy business, and the prospect of falling gas prices is more a hope than an expectation.

Nevertheless, the pipeline helps secure a gas supply route, at a time when Britain's energy demands need all the help they can get.

As for the cows and sheep of north Yorkshire, it's hard to find an upside for them in this huge engineering project.

They're having to graze to the sound of welders and diggers, and stare all day at bronzed young men in hard hats manoeuvring seven tonne lumps of steel into two-metre deep trenches.

At night fall, some of the smaller members of the animal kingdom are enjoying running up and down the pipeline. They are alone in hoping that the completion date - and the gas flow - is delayed.




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