UK shutdown warning: Industry 'could stop' in winter cold snap as gas prices soar

14 October 2021, 06:08 | Updated: 14 October 2021, 10:21

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has warned of an industry shut down amid soaring gas prices
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has warned of an industry shut down amid soaring gas prices. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Industry could shut down if energy supplies run out and high gas prices are set to stay for the winter, a prominent manufacturing boss has claimed.

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Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe warned that a lack of gas storage in Britain makes the country vulnerable and a prolonged cold spell could lead to a shutdown if the demand from businesses and customers was to exceed supply.

The warning from the founder of manufacturing giant Ineos follows remarks from others in the industry, who said they could shut their plants in winter if energy demands are high.

Speaking about a bad winter on ITV's Peston, Sir Jim said: "Yeah, in which case then, what you would do is you'd shut down industry."

"I think it's quite difficult to predict how long this sort of current situation's going to last, but you know I suppose if you were a betting man you'd assume it would probably run through at least through the winter because obviously our gas demand increases in the winter."

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He added gas was "a very strategic and important requirement for the UK economy and they (the Government) need to ensure that the UK economy can't be held to ransom because we haven't organised our gas situation very well".

He claimed that the UK has 10 days' of storage, which he described as "a bit pathetic really for a nation as important as the UK", and added that European countries have four or five times that amount.

He said: "Four years ago when we had the 'Beast From The East', we were within a day or two of running out of gas in the UK.

"If we had run out of gas it would have been a disaster for the older people who wouldn't have been able to get heating in the house, for industry which would have had to shut down. But we were within days, and we did make that point."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government should "come out of hiding" and work with businesses to tackle the issue, claiming ministers had "put their out-of-office on".

The Business Department said ministers and officials were engaging with industry "to further understand and to help mitigate the impacts of high global gas prices".