Who are the National Transmission System (NTS), and why are they important?
The National Transmission System (NTS) is an incredibly important part of our gas distribution network. We explore what the NTS is, and how it’s regulated and try to answer all commonly asked questions.
What is the National Transmission System?
The National Transmission System (NTS) is the network of high-pressure gas pipelines and compressor stations in Great Britain that transport gas from the entry points at the coast to major gas hubs, gas-fired power stations, and other large industrial users.
It is operated by National Grid, which manages the pipeline system to ensure a safe, secure, and reliable gas supply to customers nationwide.
The NTS is an integral part of the UK’s gas supply infrastructure and is critical in meeting the country’s energy needs.
How is the National Transmission System (NTS) regulated in the UK?
The National Transmission System (NTS) in the UK is regulated by Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets), which is the independent regulatory body responsible for ensuring that gas and electricity markets in the UK are competitive, efficient, and consumer-focused.
Ofgem sets the regulatory framework for the NTS and oversees the system’s operation to ensure it operates safely, securely, and efficiently.
The regulatory framework includes rules and guidelines for the system’s operation and the pricing and tariff structure for using the NTS by gas shippers and suppliers. Ofgem can investigate and enforce compliance with the rules and impose penalties for non-compliance.
Ofgem sets price controls for the NTS to ensure that the charges for using the system are fair, reasonable, and transparent.
The price controls are set for several years and consider factors such as the cost of maintaining and upgrading the system and the cost of financing the capital investments needed to expand and improve the system.
Having Ofgem regulating helps to ensure that the NTS is operated in the public interest and serves the needs of consumers and the broader economy.
How does the National Transmission System (NTS) transport gas?
We consider from start to finish how the NTS performs its role in transporting gas. We cover the entry into the national transmission system to the end of the process, where the billing and pricing occur.
Extraction and production
Gas is extracted from under the North Sea and processed by producers and commercial energy suppliers, such as Centrica, BP, and Shell.
Entry into the National Transmission System
Gas producers and suppliers can enter the NTS by connecting their pipelines to one of the six entry points around the country (including the LNG terminals). The gas is transported through the high-pressure pipelines of the NTS to various exit points throughout the country.
Gas treatment and compression
Before entering the NTS, the gas may need to be treated and compressed to meet the required quality and pressure standards. Gas processing plants and compressor stations near the entry points typically do this.
Once in the NTS, the gas is transported through the high-pressure pipelines to the exit points. It is then delivered to local gas distribution networks or large industrial customers. The NTS is able to transport gas across the entire country, from Northern Scotland in the north to the south coast of England.
Gas quality and safety
The NTS is operated by National Grid, which ensures the gas transported through the system meets strict quality and safety standards.
This includes regularly monitoring gas quality, pressure, and flow rates and implementing safety measures such as gas leak detection systems and emergency response procedures.
Balancing and capacity management
To ensure a secure and reliable gas supply to customers, the NTS must balance the gas supply with the demand from gas shippers and suppliers.
Capacity management involves forecasting demand, monitoring the gas flow in the system, and adjusting supply as needed. The NTS also can store gas in underground reservoirs to help manage fluctuations in demand.
Billing and pricing
Gas shippers and suppliers are billed for using the NTS based on a system of tariffs set by the regulatory body, Ofgem.
The tariffs are designed to recover the costs of operating and maintaining the NTS and provide a return on investment for National Grid Gas. Gas pricing is also affected by factors such as supply and demand, global gas prices, and environmental regulations.
What is the capacity of the National Transmission System (NTS)?
The capacity of the National Transmission System (NTS) in the UK depends on several factors. These include:
- The size of the pipeline network,
- The compression and storage capacity,
- The level of demand from gas shippers and suppliers.
This capacity is provided through a network of more than 7,000 km of high-pressure pipelines and over 20 compressor stations located across the country.
The actual capacity of the NTS can vary depending on factors such as the weather, the level of gas imports and exports, and the level of demand from different sectors of the economy.
Read our guide on wholesale gas prices
During periods of high demand, such as cold winter weather, the NTS may operate at near maximum capacity to ensure customers receive a secure and reliable gas supply.
Conversely, during periods of low demand or high gas storage levels, the NTS may have excess capacity to export gas to other countries.
How does the National Transmission System (NTS) ensure gas safety and reliability?
The National Transmission System (NTS) is responsible for ensuring the safe and reliable gas transmission.
They ensure gas safety and reliability in the following ways:
- Maintenance and Inspection
- Emergency Response
- Safety Regulations
- Capacity Management
- Investment in Technology
Maintenance and Inspection
The NTS regularly inspects and maintains its pipeline network to ensure it is in good condition and can operate safely and reliably. It includes monitoring for leaks, corrosion, and other potential issues and addressing any identified problems.
They have an emergency response plan to quickly respond to any incidents that may occur on its pipeline network. This includes working closely with local emergency services and other stakeholders to coordinate a response and minimise any impact on the public and the environment.
The NTS is subject to strict safety regulations set by the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These regulations cover everything from pipeline design and construction to operational procedures and emergency response.
The NTS manages the capacity of its pipeline network to ensure that there is always enough gas available to meet demand. This involves forecasting demand, managing supply, and ensuring the pipeline network can handle fluctuations in demand.
Investment in Technology
The NTS invests in advanced technology and equipment to improve the safety and reliability of its pipeline network. This includes using sensors and monitoring systems to detect and respond to potential issues before they become major problems. The National Transmission System ensures safe and reliable gas transmission across the UK.
By maintaining its pipeline network, responding quickly to emergencies, adhering to strict safety regulations, managing capacity, and investing in technology, the NTS helps ensure the UK has a secure and stable gas supply.
How does the National Transmission System (NTS) interact with the local gas distribution networks in the UK?
The National Transmission System (NTS) is responsible for transporting gas across long distances and connecting different parts of the UK to the national gas network. On the other hand, local gas distribution networks are responsible for distributing gas to homes, businesses, and other local consumers within specific geographic areas.
The NTS and local distribution networks and independent gas transporters are connected through a series of interconnecting pipelines known as interconnectors. These interconnectors allow gas to flow from the NTS into the local distribution networks, which can be further distributed to local consumers.
The NTS and local distribution networks work closely to ensure that gas is transported and distributed safely and efficiently. This involves coordinating maintenance and repair work, managing supply and demand, and sharing information about the state of the gas network.
Capacity management is a key area of interaction between the NTS and local distribution networks.
The NTS manages the overall capacity of the gas network, while local distribution networks manage the capacity within their specific areas. To ensure enough gas to meet demand across the entire network, the NTS and local distribution networks work together to balance supply and demand and coordinate the use of storage facilities.
They also work together to ensure that gas is transported and distributed in compliance with UK safety and environmental regulations. This includes coordinating emergency response plans and sharing information about potential safety hazards.
The NTS and local distribution networks are complementary in the UK’s gas supply chain.
They work closely to ensure that gas is transported and distributed safely, reliably, and efficiently.
How does the National Transmission System (NTS) handle fluctuations in gas demand?
The NTS handles the fluctuation of gas demand in a number of ways. Here we explore each option in a bit more detail.
- Gas Storage Facilities – In the UK, the NTS operates several gas storage facilities, which can hold large volumes of gas that can be quickly released into the network when demand is high. These storage facilities act as a buffer, helping to ensure enough gas is available to meet demand even during peak consumption periods.
- Capacity Management – As mentioned earlier, the NTS carefully manages the capacity of its pipeline network to ensure enough gas is available to meet demand.
- Interconnectors with other countries – NTS is connected to gas networks in other countries, which can provide additional supply during periods of high demand or supply disruption.
- Gas Balancing – They operate a gas balancing system, so supply meets demand in real-time. This involves monitoring gas flows, adjusting supply as needed, and working with local gas distribution networks to ensure that gas is distributed to where it is needed most.
- Emergency Response – As mentioned above, The NTS has an emergency response plan to quickly respond to any incidents that may occur on its pipeline networks, such as supply disruptions or leaks.
How the NTS impacts business gas bills
When a business pays for a gas supply, they are actually paying for several different things. The physical extraction and safe transportation of gas as well as the maintenance of a gas connection.
The National Transmission Network charges are a small but constant component of business gas bills. Here’s our full guide on what goes into a business gas bill.