The Natural Gas Emergency Plan (NGEP)
The Natural Gas Emergency Plan (NGEP) has been prepared by Gas Networks Ireland in accordance with the requirements of the Gas (Interim) (Regulations) Act 2002 and Statutory Instrument 697 of 2007. The scope of the NGEP covers the two elements of emergency arrangements, emergency planning and operational response. The operational response to a gas supply emergency is led by the National Gas Emergency Manager (NGEM) in accordance with the NGEP. Gas Networks Ireland has been appointed the NGEM by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). Revision 5 of the NGEP was approved by the CRU in October 2022. For any queries on the NGEP please contact us by email at email@example.com.
1. What is the NGEP?
The Natural Gas Emergency Plan (NGEP) is the procedure that will be followed by Gas Networks Ireland for managing a natural gas emergency. The NGEP is approved by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and is published on the Gas Networks Ireland website.
The plan describes the measures, that may be used by the National Gas Emergency Manager (NGEM), to match supply and demand in the event of a natural gas emergency.
2. Who is the NGEM?
The National Gas Emergency Manager (NGEM) is responsible for using the NGEP to coordinate actions to prevent a natural gas emergency developing, or, where it cannot be prevented, to take timely decisions in order to ensure the safe operation of the natural gas network and to minimise the impact on customers. Gas Networks Ireland is the NGEM as appointed by the CRU.
3. How will I be informed if there is a gas supply emergency?
In the event of a gas supply emergency Gas Networks Ireland will co-ordinate customer messaging using communication plans already agreed.
The following channels may be used:
Gas Networks Ireland website www.gasnetworks.ie
4. In the event of a gas supply emergency how will gas demand be curtailed?
In the event of an emergency where demand for natural gas exceeds supply, Gas Networks Ireland must prioritise safety and will act to protect the integrity of the natural gas network. In common with international gas industry best practice, the principle of ‘largest consumer off first’ is applied. This allows Gas Networks Ireland to address the gas supply/demand imbalance in the shortest timeframe. This principle is also in common with gas industry practice in Great Britain where Ireland receives >70% of its gas supply.
5. Who are the largest gas consumers
Gas consumers are categorised in order of their annual gas consumption from largest to smallest.
The largest gas consumers in Ireland are called Large Daily Metered (LDM) customers. These consumers account for approximately 70% of all natural gas consumed in the Republic of Ireland. The largest volumes of gas within this sector are consumed by gas-fired electricity generating stations.
The LDM sector also includes some of Ireland’s largest industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, food and dairy processors and IT companies.
The other categories of consumers are Daily Metered (DM) and Non-Daily Metered (NDM).
All domestic and residential customers are NDM consumers.
6. What happens if gas-fired electricity generating stations are curtailed?
On average natural gas is used to generate 50% of Irelands electricity. In the event of a natural gas emergency, Gas Networks Ireland and EirGrid have agreed procedures in place to manage, in a controlled fashion, the curtailment of the amount of gas consumed for electricity generation. In so far as possible, Gas Networks Ireland, EirGrid and ESB Networks will work together to protect the security of the electricity network in the event of a natural gas emergency.
7. What should large business and industry do?
All gas consumers, including their gas supplier, must cooperate with the NGEM in managing a gas supply emergency. Gas Networks Ireland recommends that all LDM and DM customers regularly test their business continuity plans which normally include steps to be taken in the event of an energy supply outage to ensure their business can continue to operate in the event an emergency.
8. What happens if I do not cease gas consumption in an emergency?
In the event of a consumer refusing to cease their gas consumption in an emergency, Gas Networks Ireland may send an Authorised Officer to site and this person has the legal authority to enter the premise and turn off the gas supply. This process is most relevant to large gas consumers (i.e. industry) as Gas Networks Ireland will prioritise ‘largest off first’ in line with its emergency procedures to maintain the safety of the network.
9. What happens to domestic/residential gas consumers in an emergency?
The smallest category of consumer is the Non-Daily Metered (NDM) sector and consists primarily of domestic, residential and small business customers. There are more than 710,000 consumers in the NDM category making it the largest category in terms of customer numbers.
Curtailing gas supply to the NDM sector is only carried out as a last resort as customers in this category are defined as Protected Customers under EU regulation.
It is expected that Ireland would have to lose all gas supply from Great Britain for Protected Customers to be impacted. Such a scenario is not envisaged by Ireland, the UK or the European Commission through any modelling or scenario analysis undertaken in 2022.
Refer also to the Gas Networks Ireland Winter Outlook 2022/23 at https://www.gasnetworks.ie/corporate/gas-regulation/regulatory-publications/
10. What are Protected Customers?
Protected Customers are defined as all NDM consumers (including domestic customers) as well as priority customers in the DM sector which are of the following categories:
- hospitals and nursing homes, including retirement homes;
- high security prisons;
- district heating schemes; and,
- further categories of essential social services as determined by the CRU from time to time.
In the event of a gas supply emergency, Gas Networks Ireland will prioritise gas supply to Protected Customers above other categories, however this does not guarantee continuity of supply in all circumstances.
11. Will there be rolling gas outages for domestic customers?
Unlike the electricity system, rolling outages are not an option for gas network operators as a minimum pressure must be maintained in the network for safety and integrity reasons.
Where a natural gas emergency results in the loss of supply to domestic customers, Gas Networks Ireland will commence reconnecting those customers as soon as adequate supply to the network has been restored. The time taken to reconnect supply is linked to the number of supply points turned off as a result of the emergency.
12. Has there ever been a gas supply emergency?
To date there has not been natural gas supply emergency where demand has exceeded supply resulting in an emergency. As a prudent operator, Gas Networks Ireland has developed the NGEP and tests the plan on an annual basis with industry stakeholders. The most recent test carried out was Exercise Dara in September 2022.