A second £400m gas pipeline linking Britain to the Continent could be built by the early years of the next century.
Belgium utility Gasunie has started preliminary work and other studies on the project. Gasunie plans to use the line to provide big UK gas suppliers with a long-term, low-cost source to meet winter demand in the South-East.
While the UK will be self-sufficient in gas overall until well into the next century, the future North Sea sources will be far from southern England.
Gasunie is consequently looking for a big UK purchaser or purchasers – Centrica, former supply arm of what was British Gas, is an obvious candidate – to share the cost of the project.
Pino ter Gast, Gasunie’s director of gas purchasing, said he thought necessary commitments could be secured in time to have the line in operation by 2003.
The project would not have to be self-financing in the short term but was being viewed as a vehicle to sell gas into the UK. ‘We don’t have to write it off in 10 years,’ said ter Gast.