The Utility Regulator is responsible for regulating Northern Ireland’s natural gas industry.
Our principal objective in carrying out our gas functions is to promote the development and maintenance of an efficient, economic and co-ordinated gas industry in Northern Ireland, and to do so consistently with our fulfilment of the objectives set out at Article 40 of the Gas Directive.
In fulfilling our functions, we must act in the manner that we consider best calculated to further this objective, and have regard to a number of matters set out more fully at Article 14 of the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.
The Gas Directorate is divided into three main areas: transmission, distribution and supply.
Gas transmission deal with the large high pressure pipelines that convey gas to the distribution systems. There are four transmission pipelines in Northern Ireland:
- SNIP (Scotland to Northern Ireland Pipeline) is 135 kilometres long and runs from Twynholm in Scotland to Ballylumford. The SNIP is owned by Premier Transmission Limited which is part of the Mutual Energy Ltd. group of companies.
- BGTP (Belfast Gas Transmission pipeline) is 26 kilometres long and is connected to the SNIP and to the North West Pipeline. It also supplies gas to the Belfast distribution network. The BGTP is owned by Belfast Gas Transmission Limited (BGTL) which is part of the Mutual Energy Ltd. group of companies.
- NWP (North West Pipeline) is 112 kilometres long and runs from Carrickfergus to Coolkeeragh Power-station. It is owned by BGE Northern Ireland (BGE NI)
- SNP (South North Pipeline) is 156 kilometres long and runs from Co Antrim to Gormanstown in Co. Meath, Ireland where it links into the NWP. It is owned by BGE Northern Ireland (BGE NI).
Gas transmission also deals with the regulatory framework for gas storage which is discussed further below under the projects section.
Gas distribution deal with the medium and low pressure gas mains that convey gas to licenced areas within Northern Ireland. Currently there are two distribution systems
- Phoenix Natural Gas Limited (PNGL)
Firmus Energy (fe)
Gas supply work with companies supplying customers with gas into their homes/businesses.
Currently there are twelve suppliers holding gas supply licences for supply in the Greater Belfast market and the Ten Towns market.
In the Greater Belfast market, two of these suppliers are active in supplying gas to domestic and industrial & commercial customers: Airtricity Gas Supply and firmus energy, and another two of these supplier are active in supplying gas only to industrial & commercial customers: Electric Ireland and Vayu.
In the Ten Towns market, the large industrial & commercial market opened to competition from 1 October 2012 and there are currently two active suppliers in this market: firmus energy and Airtricity Gas Supply. The small industrial & commercial and domestic market will not open to competition until April 2015 and until then all customers in this market will be supplied by firmus energy.