A new pipeline to deliver gas from Norway to the UK has been opened, adding a new supply source that could help drive down gas prices in the UK market in future.

Gas from Norway’s Sleipner and Troll fields in the North Sea is now being delivered to the British market following the opening of the southern leg of the new Langeled pipeline. Running for about 600km, the southern leg is already carrying gas from its starting point on the Statoil-operated Sleipner East field to Easington on the UK’s east coast.

The first stage of what will be the world’s longest submarine gas pipeline was thereby operational as scheduled for the new gas year, which began on October 1, 2006.

Statoil has been responsible for designing and laying the whole 1,200km Langeled system, which starts from Nyhamna in mid-Norway, on behalf of development operator Hydro.

Norwegian gas pipeline operator Gassco took over the running of the complete pipeline on September 1, 2006. The cost is currently estimated at NOK17 billion, which is NOK3 billion below the operator’s original budget.

The system will have a total annual capacity of 20 billion cubic meters, or a fifth of British gas requirements, in the course of a year. This supplements the 12 billion cubic meters which can be carried annually in the existing Vesterled system from the Hydro-operated Heimdal platform to St Fergus in Scotland.

The new pipeline should, thus, help ease concerns over gas supplies in the UK and hopefully drive down costs. Indeed, The Business Online quotes a Centrica spokesman as saying, While wholesale gas prices going into this winter remain very high, the signal of Langeled starting up today and of other projects being on track can only be welcomed…This could represent the prospect of more accessible supplies for the UK going forward.