A geographical perspective on the natural gas supply industry in the United Kingdom
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- Working papers (SNF) 
Natural gas has, over the last 40 years, come to account for a substantial percentage of primary energy consumption (i.e. including inputs to electricity and heat generation) in the United Kingdom (UK). In 2002, this percentage (37.3) was exceeded in only two other European countries, the Netherlands (46.0) and Hungary (43.0) (International Energy Agency, 2003). Although oil has generally attracted greater attention than natural gas, the effects of the latter upon the energy economy of the UK have, in certain respects, been more profound. Most North Sea oil production is exported directly from the UK (69.4 per cent in 2003 (DTI, 2004)) and the balance has been processed within an oil refining system originally established to handle imported oil. By contrast, the availability of natural gas from the North Sea from the mid-1960s transformed the UK gas industry from a producer of secondary energy (i.e. town gas manufactured from coal and oil) to a distributor of primary energy. This transformation had a geographical dimension evident in the contrast between the essentially local distribution systems of the town gas industry and the national system created to deliver natural gas.1 The development of this system has been accompanied by very significant organisational changes as the gas industry became one of several network utilities transferred from public to private ownership in the UK since the 1980s. This paper reviews these events from a geographical perspective. It is divided into three main sections. The first describes the growth of the natural gas consumption in the UK. The second places this empirical material within a policy framework. The third relates spatial variations in the availability and cost of natural gas to patterns of economic development and welfare.