Azara Blog: Natural gas pipeline supposed to go over the Brecon Beacons

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Date published: 2006/10/08

The BBC says:

If the National Grid - which operates the UK's energy infrastructure - gets the go-ahead for the second phase of the project [ to link LNG terminals in Wales from Milford Haven to the national network in Swansea], then this same pipeline, destined ultimately for England, will cut through the Brecon Beacons National Park.

A designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the park has made it clear it is opposed to the idea and says that according to European Union rules a more thorough survey of the environmental impact is needed.

"We are fearful a good job will not be done, because the timeframe to build the pipeline is so tight," says Paul Sinnadurai, the Park's ecologist.

One of the biggest fears for the Park is that business interests will overpower environmental concerns, especially after a period of public consultation was delayed by a month, increasing time pressures even further.

The pipeline, expected to meet around 20% of the UK's energy needs, will link LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals in Milford Haven, West Wales, to the national network in Swansea and ultimately Gloucester.

The whole project is forecast to cost £750m ($1.4bn) and National Grid is contractually obliged to start delivering gas in October 2007. It aims to start building the second section - 115 miles long - in early 2007.

If it fails to meet the timetable, it could incur up to £36m in fines by September 2008, imposed by energy regulator Ofgem. The penalty would start at £2m for the first month and increase incrementally.

In addition, National Grid would have to compensate the energy firms - Exxon, Qatar Petroleum, BP and Petronas - for their inability to import LNG.

The National Grid said it is working hard to balance the UK's energy needs with environmental concerns and points out that the pipeline will run underground so it will not be visible.

It also said that its construction methods take great environmental care, adding that each layer of soil removed is labelled and set aside so that it can be put back in its original order.
The Park's ecologist are still not convinced and argue that the Brecon Beacons fragile upland habitats could take much longer to recover from the pipeline construction than other regions.

It's not going to be great in the short term for the park if the pipeline goes through it, but it's hard to believe there will be any real impact in the medium to long term, and certainly an insignificant impact in comparison with other external factors such as climate change (and of course the gas in this particular pipeline will add some small percentage to the world total of greenhouse gas emissions). It would be better if the park worked with the National Grid instead of just opposing everything.

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