Manufacturers step up gas price campaign

Gas300Process manufacturers are stepping up their campaign for urgent Government intervention to protect industry from gas shortages after it was revealed that UK supplies fell dangerously low in March.

During March, gas prices rose as high as £1.50 per therm when an interconnector at the Bacton gas terminal in Norfolk failed. Earlier, prices were as low as 60p per therm.

Dr Laura Cohen (pictured), chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said: “One of our members couldn’t make their products profitably at these extortionate prices.

“They were forced into an additional shutdown, laying off staff as energy is by far their biggest input cost. The Government claims the gas market is working well – it certainly isn’t for UK ceramics manufacturers.”

George Stewart, UK industrial director of clay roof tile manufacturer Monier Group, said: “In March, National Grid rang us and other ceramic manufacturers ‘just to check’ who to call in case they needed to cut off supplies to our site because of gas shortages. Had I needed to shut down at a few hours’ notice, we could have damaged the kiln.”.

John Sandford, sustainability director at brickmaker Wienerberger UK, which recently completed a multi-million-pound investment in an energy-efficient kiln at its factory in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, said: “Companies such as ourselves and Monier are foreign–owned. The UK competes with other overseas sites for investment. We need better energy security and price stability to make a case to continue investment.”

Now Dan Byles, MP for North Warwickshire and Bedworth and member of the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee, has backed the calls for improved gas storage and security.

“Significant investment in gas storage with a requirement to use it has to be investigated as a matter of urgency,” he said. “I want to keep manufacturing businesses, jobs and investments in the UK and in my constituency.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change is reviewing whether it needs to intervene in the UK gas market and, if so, what form that intervention should take. A decision is expected this month.

This material is protected by copyright Ken Hurst 2013.

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About Ken Hurst

Ken Hurst began his career as a journalist in London over 30 years ago, working on a range of publications before moving on to weekly newspaper production in the newly-independent Zambia of the 1970s. He returned to the UK where his work included spells on newspapers and magazines, before moving to head up Norwich Union’s corporate affairs division. In the 1990s he moved on to freelance, co-own and publish the B2B audio magazine Sound and front the BBC radio Yesterday’s Papers programme. There followed six years as Business Editor at Britain’s biggest selling regional daily newspaper, The Eastern Daily Press, where he led an award-winning team and for whom he still writes a weekly socio/political comment column. Subsequently, he was Group Editorial Director at CBM, responsible for its UK and US magazine output – including The Manufacturer magazine – research-driven industry reports and live events content. Currently he is Contributing Editor at Works Management magazine publisher Findlay Media and Chairman of the consumer publishing house TNT Multimedia Ltd. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of the British Association of Communicators in Business.
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