Rough is a natural gas storage facility under the North Sea off the east coast of England. It is capable of storing 100 billion cubic feet of gas, nearly double the storage capacities in operation in Great Britain in 2021.
Originally opened in 1985, it was subsequently closed by Centrica Storage Ltd in 2017 because of the need for costly maintenance, the UK government refusing to subsidise repairs. Centrica gained approval from safety inspectors for the facility to be brought back into service in August 2022.
Production licences for the Rough field were given in 1964, and gas was first brought ashore to Easington gas processing terminal in 1975. In 1980 British Gas Corporation (which became British Gas plc in 1986 following privatisation) purchased the Rough field with one-third of reserves depleted, with the intention of converting the field into a gas storage facility to manage seasonal trends in the supply and demand of gas in the UK. In 1983 British Gas Corporation made the final decision to convert Rough into a natural gas storage facility. It came into operation in 1985 as the largest gas storage facility built in the UK continental shelf, capable of storing 100 billion cubic feet of gas, nearly double Great Britain's 2021 capacity.
The break-up of British Gas plc in 1997 into BG Group and Centrica meant that BG Storage was created as a ring-fenced subsidiary of BG Group, for competition reasons. In 2001, BG Group sold BG Storage, and thus the Rough facility, to Dynegy. In 2002, Centrica bought the plant from Dynegy for £304 million during its period of near-bankruptcy. The purchase of Rough led to the Competition Commission requesting certain undertakings being put in place because of Centrica's control of the Morecambe Bay gas fields which at the time were providing 10–15% of the UK's gas supply. In 2003 Centrica provided DECC with a set of undertakings and Centrica Storage Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Centrica plc) was formed. Centrica Storage Ltd still operates the Rough facility in accordance with the undertakings.
In June 2017, Centrica announced the closure of the Rough gas storage site on the grounds that it was uneconomical and had reached the end of its design life.
In May 2022, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, began talks with the site's owners with a view to reopening the site to help ease the ongoing cost-of-living crisis in the United Kingdom. In June 2022, owners Centrica submitted an application to the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the licencing authority for the UK Government, to reopen the facility. Approval was granted in July. Subsequently, Centrica indicated that they are working hard to restore storage operations at Rough which would depend on securing subsidies from the British government. Centrica was aiming to have some capacity available for the winter of 2022/23 against an overall plan to increase storage capacity gradually over time.
The facility consists of a partially depleted gas field (the Rough field) in the Southern North Sea, approximately 18 miles (29 km) off the east coast of Yorkshire at  The Rough Field is divided into two complexes around two kilometres (1.2 mi) apart, referred to as Rough Alpha and Rough Bravo. Rough Alpha consists of two platforms linked by bridges and Rough Bravo consists of three bridge-linked platforms. Thirty wells have been drilled to the reservoirs for the purpose of injecting or extracting gas.
Additionally, there is an onshore gas-processing terminal at Easington. This facility compressed gas and forced it offshore to the Bravo complex through a 36-inch (91 cm) pipeline. The Bravo platforms have two Rolls-Royce Avon gas turbine engines that drove compressors forcing the gas down to the reservoir, around 300 metres (980 ft) below the sea bed. As gas stored in the reservoir becomes slightly contaminated with water and hydrocarbons, the offshore platforms also have facilities for cleaning and drying the gas after extraction. The water was discharged, while the hydrocarbons were re-mixed with the gas and carried to shore in the pipeline.
Rough had a storage capacity of 3.31 billion cubic metres, approximately 70 per cent of the UK's gas storage capacity (approximately nine days' supply). Rough could supply 10 per cent of the UK's peak gas demand and thus was an important part of the UK's gas infrastructure. Operational problems led to a partial shutdown in 2016, requiring increased imports during that winter.
At the time of the announcement of the rundown of the facility in June 2017, Rough was the only depleted UK offshore gas field reservoir used for gas storage and retrieval. Several projects have been proposed to use other depleted offshore fields but none has proved to be economically viable; two examples are the Baird and Deborah gas storage projects.
The offshore installations and their details and functions were as follows.
|Installation||Platform||Function||Type||Legs||Well slots||Installed||Production start||Production to/from|
|Rough A Complex||Rough AD||Drilling/wellheads||Steel jacket||8||12||1975||October 1975||To Rough AP|
|Rough AP||Production||Steel jacket||8||–||1975
|October 1975||To Easington (16" pipeline) or to Rough BP (18" pipeline)|
|Rough Gas Storage Complex||Rough BP||Processing and compression||Steel jacket||8||–||July 1983||April 1985||To/from Easington (36" pipeline)|
|Rough BD||Drilling||Steel jacket||8||12||August 1983||1985||Into reservoir or to Rough BP|
|Rough CD||Wellhead||Steel jacket||4||12||June July 1984||January 1985||Into reservoir or to Rough BP|
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