Gas pipes, natural gas transport system. Transmission infrastructure coming from the ground, yellow pipes with valve and flow meter on the background of the wind farm

How Can Your Company Handle Major Gas Supply Disruption?

The work of underground gas pipeline installation is vital to maintain supplies and while the most important work is always the initial project to set the pipelines in place, every so often this work needs to be partly repeated.

As every motorist knows, this is necessary all too often. Old pipes that may have been in place for many years will need replacing as they wear out and become leak-prone. Others will offer insufficient capacity for the area they serve as user needs change and will have to be supplemented by new pipes or replaced with wider ones.

When things get busy

An obvious example of the latter may be an area where the number of businesses or the residential population is on the rise. That can happen in new developments, but also in places that undergo urban renewal.

If your business is located in a large city centre, you may well have seen this happening before your eyes over recent years, with many commercial developments and even more residential growth.

Manchester is a prime case of this, its city centre going from having a minimal residential population to one of tens of thousands over the past 25 years as major developments have appeared everywhere, while the commercial growth of the city has also been notable.

All this means more demand for energy and other infrastructure, as well as a growing need to renew old infrastructure.

Urgent pipework in Manchester

This has led to a lot of work being required in some locations and the latest instance, at the end of October, was a series of major works at the junction of Liverpool Street and Water Street, in an area of huge developments close to the new Factory Records Venue and Spinningfields.

Describing the work as “urgent”, Manchester City Council said it would be working with the gas company involved and its ‘partners’ to “minimise disruption to businesses, residents and commuters” over a five-week period ending in early December.

“During this period we’d urge motorists to think ahead before considering using the road in this section or town,” it added.

Clearly, it is not great news for motorists on the western edge of the city centre to have to deal with road closures such as that of Water Street for a fortnight, or the slowing effect of two-way lights.

However, the disruption to businesses caused by gas pipe repairs may be more than just a temporary nuisance for motorists trying to get to work or home. Where such work means gas supplies are reduced or cut off and you need a lot, you will need to plan ahead by making alternative arrangements.

This could involve steps such as bringing in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and any equipment needed to hook up your systems to it. You might also store some gas yourself if you have the capacity to do so, but most companies will not.   

Business continuity and gas

Major gas pipeline works might be disruptive in all these ways, but at least there is some forewarning given. In the case of the works in Manchester, these will finish just before peak demand kicks in, as the days are shortest in December and generally coldest in January. However, for commercial users, the seasonal variations will be less.

What planned works do is give time to make some alternative supply arrangements, but it is always worth considering how you would respond when you might need alternative gas supplies suddenly, such as when the supply has been cut off in an emergency.

In some cases, such a scenario might simply lead to a temporary shut-down as a leak or other problem is addressed. In other cases, such as a fire or incident that causes greater damage to pipes or the vicinity around them, work to fix everything will take a lot longer.

That is where having your own supply, either LNG or even your own pipes to secure an independent supply, may be invaluable.

Every company needs to have a business continuity plan in case of events that disrupt their normal operations. This can include incidents like fires and floods, with solutions ranging from working from home (which works for some firms but not others, as Covid showed), temporary relocation, or the swift restoration of premises to working order.

In the case of the central Manchester works, the issue is not a local disaster but important works in an historic area undergoing massive redevelopment. But whatever the reason for supplies being halted, your firm needs to ensure that it is ready with a plan and a gas supplier to work with to ensure you can avoid too much disruption.

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