Natural gas was introduced to Northern Ireland in 1996 and there are now about 120,000 households and 8,000 businesses with a gas supply (including power generators).
Northern Ireland gas suppliers sell to consumers by purchasing their gas from gas producers or wholesalers at prices that are set with reference to a UK trading hub known as the National Balancing Point (NBP). A large proportion of this gas is still drawn from the North Sea fields, although these are in decline and import sources are of increasing importance.
The Northern Ireland gas industry is part of a single price zone for gas that extends to North Germany. Gas is traded within that zone between a series of hubs, and prices differ between these hubs generally only to reflect transport costs.
Gas is conveyed via transmission and distribution networks to supply gas to consumers’ premises where it is metered. Each of these three functions are licenced separately, just as in electricity services. The higher pressure gas transmission pipes feed the lower pressure gas distribution network pipes and run from Larne, near where the gas interconnector from Scotland comes into Northern Ireland, south to Newry (and from there on across the border to Dundalk) and north to Londonderry.
The gas distribution network in Northern Ireland is currently divided into two distinct areas, the greater Belfast area, served by Phoenix Natural Gas and the Ten Towns area, which encompasses the major towns outside Belfast along the transmission pipe, is served by firmus energy. Both are licensed.
The Greater Belfast area was open to competition for the supply of gas in 2007, and competition for the supply of gas in the Ten Towns area will be opened from Autumn 2012.
Details of current licences, designated pipeline operators, gas distribution companies and gas supply companies in Northern Ireland can be found in our gas license section.