Natural gas consumption in Western Europe rose to a new peak in 1998, reported the European Union of the Natural Gas Industry (Eurogas), Brussels.
Eurogas said preliminary estimates show consumption last year totaled more than 14,365 petajoules (12.88 tcf). This was 4.1% above 1997 levels and well above the previous record of 13,888 petajoules (12.46 tcf) in 1996 (see table).
Eurogas attributed the rise to: strong increases in gas consumption for power generation, both by power companies and industrial customers for in-house generation; firm growth of gas consumption in the industrial sector; and a steady increase in the number of customers in all sectors. It said the increased number of customers confirmed the fact that, owing to its environmental and economic benefits, natural gas remains the preferred fuel in the European energy market.
"Over the last 5 years," said Eurogas, "natural gas consumption in Western Europe has increased by 26%, and the number of customers by 13%-reaching the level of nearly 78 million customers."
While the new gas markets of Greece and Portugal showed strong growth, the more established markets of Finland, Belgium, Denmark, and Italy also recorded substantial growth from 1997 levels-of 15.1%, 10%, 9.2%, and 7.6%, respectively. This was attributed to a strong increase in gas consumption for power generation and a rise in the number of customers. Spanish demand rose 6.7%, thanks to increased industrial and residential consumption, while growth of 3.6% in British and 6.7% in French consumption was spread across all sectors. Total gas supplies in Europe last year, both domestic production and imports, amounted to just more than 14,350 petajoules, with the remaining volumes to balance consumption taken from storage. Indigenous Western European production-including Norway's-accounted for 68% of total supplies in 1998, while Russia contributed 18%, Algeria 13%, and other sources less than 1%. In 1998, the U.K. was Western Europe's largest gas producer, yielding 3,513 petajoules (3.15 tcf), followed by the Netherlands with 2,662 petajoules (2.38 tcf).
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