The UK’s high-pressure gas pipelines provide significant flexibility to the grid.
That’s the conclusion reached in new research by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which highlights the scale of flexibility offered by ‘linepack’, which is the amount of gas stored in the country’s transmission and distribution network.
Network operators change the pressure in pipelines to vary the levels of linepack to help match supply and demand for gas.
Previously, the volume of linepack in the distribution network has been based on estimated values – by combining hourly data from the National Transmission System and the Gas Distribution Networks over a 63-month period, UKERC researchers have been able to calculate hourly and daily variations.
They found it is typically at its highest level at 6am, just before people wake up, and lowest at 9pm, once evening demand dies down.
On half of the days during the October to March ‘heating season’, the within-day flexibility was greater than 377GWh, a figure UKERC’s researchers suggest is a very significant volume.
The organisation says the findings prove gas infrastructure plays a critical role in providing flexibility to the UK’s existing energy systems and calls for an increased focus to understand the requirements and costs of flexibility, as well as how low carbon flexibility can be provided in future.
A spokesperson for UKERC said: “The scale of current within-day flexibility is so great, that it would seem sensible to encourage several avenues of research and innovation at this point, with a view to narrowing down potential options in the future.”