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Gas supplies in the Channel

Gas supplies in the Channel


Date published

Thanks to Ben Hutton at 7IM for the inspiration for this post!

The English Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world; more than 500 ships a day pass between Dover and Calais.

It’s currently even busier than usual because there are over 60 tankers moored smack bang in the middle of it.

Source: 7IM/Bloomberg/

More than half of these tankers are carrying Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and are waiting to offload it at specialist terminals in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. (The tankers are the red dots in the image, the terminals are the green triangles.)

Some of them have been there for over a month.

But we’re in an energy crisis! Why aren’t these tankers unloading? Is supply and demand dead? Well, no. Economics isn’t broken. There are just significant challenges right now.

Firstly, October 2022 was seriously warm – the seventh hottest since 1884. The mean temperature across the UK was 11.5°C, nearly 2°C warmer than normal. It was 23°C in London on 29th October!

Many of the tankers started their journeys from the US or Qatar with the expectation that central heating would be coming on across Europe but that hadn’t happened so on their arrival the demand was lower than anticipated.

Secondly, the campaign to stockpile gas ahead of the winter has been extremely successful – see the table below. Europe’s storage is at 94% of total capacity – with the understandable exception of Ukraine. That stored gas accounts for nearly one third of normal annual consumption for Europe, so the contents of the tankers are currently surplus to requirements.


Now, we don’t know how cold this winter will be (although it’s feeling pretty chilly right now!). Or how windy it will be. Or what will happen with Russia. We do know there’s plenty of gas sitting just offshore when we need it – the price we’ll have to pay for it is yet to be seen, however. Commodity prices are influenced by so many external factors, it means any statements about gas prices in the next few months (moving higher or lower) should be treated with caution.

To finish on a lighter note, look at all these yachts heading from the Mediterranean towards a warmer winter in the Caribbean! If only!

Source: 7IM/Wikimedia Commons/