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Energy giants have doubled the amount of gas sourced from the North Sea and the Irish Sea being sold to foreign buyers, even as millions of families here struggle with soaring bills.

The surge in exports, at a time when wholesale gas prices have been hitting record highs, will spark fresh accusations that companies are profiteering from the crisis.

It is also likely to lead to louder calls for a multi-billion-pound windfall tax on companies such as BP and Shell, with the money going to help hard-pressed consumers.

Domestic gas and electricity bills are set to rise by nearly 50 per cent to an average £1,900 this year under plans by regulator Ofgem to raise its cap on prices. 

Energy giants have doubled the amount of gas sourced from the North Sea and the Irish Sea being sold to foreign buyers, even as millions of families here struggle with soaring bills. (File photo)

Energy giants have doubled the amount of gas sourced from the North Sea and the Irish Sea being sold to foreign buyers, even as millions of families here struggle with soaring bills. (File photo)

Energy giants have doubled the amount of gas sourced from the North Sea and the Irish Sea being sold to foreign buyers, even as millions of families here struggle with soaring bills. (File photo)

Some in the Government want VAT cut on energy bills, but the Treasury is opposed because it would help rich households as well as poorer ones.

There is no data on which firms have been cashing in on the export boom. However, energy giants have been openly delighted by the rise in prices of both gas and oil. 

In November, BP chief executive Bernard Looney described his company as ‘literally like a cash machine’ as he handed out billions of pounds to shareholders.

Information on natural gas exports is tucked away in statistics compiled by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. 

They show that sales of British gas to foreign buyers between September and November 2021 were double the same period the year before.

Total exports amounted to 31,975 gigawatt hours for the three-month period, compared with 15,380 in 2020 and 19,633 in 2019. 

The surge in exports, at a time when wholesale gas prices have been hitting record highs, will spark fresh accusations that companies are profiteering from the crisis. It is also likely to lead to louder calls for a multi-billion-pound windfall tax on companies such as BP and Shell, with the money going to help hard-pressed consumers

The surge in exports, at a time when wholesale gas prices have been hitting record highs, will spark fresh accusations that companies are profiteering from the crisis. It is also likely to lead to louder calls for a multi-billion-pound windfall tax on companies such as BP and Shell, with the money going to help hard-pressed consumers

In November, BP chief executive Bernard Looney described his company as 'literally like a cash machine' as he handed out billions of pounds to shareholders

In November, BP chief executive Bernard Looney described his company as 'literally like a cash machine' as he handed out billions of pounds to shareholders

The surge in exports, at a time when wholesale gas prices have been hitting record highs, will spark fresh accusations that companies are profiteering from the crisis. It is also likely to lead to louder calls for a multi-billion-pound windfall tax on companies such as BP and Shell, with the money going to help hard-pressed consumers

The largest recipients of gas from the UK were Belgium, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.

Richard Black, founder of the independent Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: ‘It will probably come as a surprise to many people that when gas is eye-wateringly expensive, millions are struggling with bills and warnings of shortages are everywhere, gas exports from Britain to the Continent have been unusually high – at least 50 per cent higher than usual for the time of year.

‘The reason is very simple. The gas doesn’t belong to Britain or the British people – it’s extracted by commercial companies that sell to the highest bidder, wherever that may be.’

One reason for the exports is that the UK has very limited capacity to store gas compared with other European countries. 

The Netherlands has nine times the storage, while Germany has 16 times.

Will Webster, energy policy manager for industry body Oil & Gas UK, said: ‘We don’t have much gas storage capacity in the UK, so at times when demand is low and we have too much gas in the UK system, it is exported to Europe, where the market is larger and more storage is available.

‘This gas often flows back to the UK later when it is needed.’

Britain produces about half the gas it uses domestically from fields under the North Sea and Irish Sea.

A Government spokesperson said: ‘The Energy Price Cap is currently insulating millions of consumers from high global gas prices. We’ll continue to listen to consumers and businesses on how to manage the costs of energy.’ 

Source: Daily Mail

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