Phoenix Natural Gas
|Founders||British Gas plc|
|Headquarters||Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|Area served||Greater Belfast & Larne|
Phoenix Natural Gas is the largest gas distribution business in Northern Ireland, being the owner and operator of the licence for the distribution network in the Greater Belfast area. The distribution business is responsible for the development of the pipeline network and also for providing a 24/7 operational and transportation service platform to suppliers under the rules of the company's network code. The ongoing investment within the Phoenix Natural Gas licence area does not attract any grant or support from local or UK government. The investment is a standalone private venture.
The Phoenix Natural Gas network currently extends to over 3000 kilometers of intermediate, medium and low-pressure mains, which distribute natural gas throughout the licence area, representing around 50% of the population of Northern Ireland. Approximately 70% of the gas infrastructure has been completed using 'No Dig' technology.
Phoenix Natural Gas manages the development of both the physical network and market in Greater Belfast; already some 140,000 customers have been connected to natural gas in the 12 years it has been available to them. the business is regulated under licence by the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR).
In March 1992 Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke announced the first stage of the privatisation of Northern Ireland Electricity, the province's monopolistic utility company; A major part of this was the sale of Ballylumford power station in Northern Ireland to British Gas for £132 million. This oil-fired power plant provided more than half of the power needs of the 600,000 customers in Northern Ireland. British Gas simultaneously announced its plans to set up Premier Transco to build and operate the Scotland-Northern Ireland pipeline (SNIP), a natural gas pipeline, to convert Ballylumford to natural gas, and to set up a commercial supply company for natural gas (what would become Phoenix Natural Gas).
The £250 million SNIP was completed in 1996, with the first gas delivered through it in September of that year. In 1997 BG Group sold a 24.5% stake in Phoenix to KeySpan. In early 2001 BG Group sold a further 24.5% to East Surrey Holdings plc (ESH) for £50 million. In November 2003 ESH purchased Phoenix outright, acquiring the other two shareholders' stakes for a total of £177 million. Terra Firma Capital Partners completed a protracted acquisition of ESH and its Phoenix subsidiary for £453 million in 2005; Terra Firma had attempted to withdraw its bid for ESH due to a "bitter and long-running dispute with Northern Ireland's energy regulator Douglas McIldoon over Phoenix Natural Gas, which represents more than half of East Surrey's sales."
In 2008 Phoenix sold the Belfast Gas Transmission Pipeline system to Northern Ireland Energy Holdings for £99.3 million; The pipeline carries natural gas from the end of the SNIP to Larne, Carrickfergus and across Belfast Lough to Knocknagoney where it connects with Phoenix's network. Phoenix was obliged to sell the pipeline as part of a licensing agreement with NIAUR.
- "NIE power plant sale agreed and BG plans gas pipeline". FT Energy Newsletters - European Energy Report (Financial Times Business Limited). March 6, 1992.
- "Gas era dawns at Ballylumford". Belfast Telegraph (Belfast Telegraph Newspapers Ltd.). October 1, 1996.
- "Phoenix to sell quarter of business". News Letter (Century Newspapers Limited). March 1, 2001.
- McDonald, Gary (November 22, 2003). "Phoenix bought outright by ESH". The Irish News (The Irish News Limited).
- "Phoenix Gas takeover to go ahead". News Letter (Century Newspapers Limited). October 18, 2005.
- Manley, John (March 31, 2008). "Energy company promises to cut prices after buying pipeline". Irish News.
- Ranscombe, Peter (May 17, 2012). "Turbines wind up profits as SSE eyes further acquisitions". The Scotsman (Johnston Press Plc).
- "Terra Firma gas deal". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). August 3, 2013.
- Robertson, Elliot; Butt, Nathalie (2000). "Natural Gas and Northern Ireland – The Implications of Connection" (PDF). Lower carbon futures for European households. Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 2011-03-19.
- Official site
- Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation
- BBC News 19 January 2006 Gas firm under fire over prices
- BBC News 30 January 2006 Phoenix loses gas market monopoly