A gas pipeline firm has doubled its import capacity amid concerns a very cold winter could lead to an energy crisis in the UK.
The pipeline between Zeebrugge in Belgium and Bacton in Norfolk has largely exported gas to Europe since it opened in 1998.
But on Tuesday, the pipeline operator Interconnector said it had now become a net importer of gas.
Fears of a winter gas shortage come as supplies in the UK North Sea decline.
The pipeline can now import 16.5bn cubic metres of gas a year compared with 8.5bn cubic metres before Tuesday.
A second expansion phase to increase the pipeline's import capacity is due to open in December 2006.
The UK used to produce more gas than it needed and export the surplus overseas, but last year it became a net importer.