Jim Ratcliffe predicts winter-long energy crisis and blames Government

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Former chemical engineer James Ratcliffe is the founder of chemical powerhouse Ineos
Former chemical engineer James Ratcliffe is the founder of chemical powerhouse Ineos

Billionaire industrialist Sir Jim Ratcliffe has blamed the Government for Britain’s gas crisis and warned that sky-high prices will last throughout winter.

The Ineos boss said the UK could be forced to shut down industry amid a chronic shortage of gas, with catastrophic implications for the economy.

Asked if the country could run out of gas in the event of a cold winter, Sir Jim said: “Yeah, in which case then, what you would do is you’d shut down industry”.

A lack of storage has left the UK particularly vulnerable to the global gas supply crunch. Asked who was to blame, Sir Jim told ITV: “That’s [the] government. That’s a strategic issue for energy supplies in the UK, you need some storage, and we’ve got 10 days. Ten days’ storage is a bit pathetic really for a nation as important as the UK, on the continent they’ve got 40 or 50 days’ storage.”

His comments came as a major wholesale gas supplier decided to stop supplying its remaining domestic utility clients after several were pushed out of business amid soaring wholesale prices.

CNG’s boss Paul Stanley told Bloomberg the company had “been forced into an impossible situation” as it reportedly advised 18 customers to seek alternative sources of gas, threatening further disruption.

Earlier in the day it emerged that two more domestic suppliers were going bust. Colorado Energy and BP-backed Pure Planet became the latest of 11 companies to collapse since the start of September, with more expected to follow.

Meanwhile, British Gas owner Centrica said it will postpone its Capital Markets Event due to be held on November 16 amid the “unprecedented commodity price environment”.

The collapses have created an opportunity for traditionally dominant energy players to win back customers who had drifted off to smaller challenger businesses.

Ofgem said: “Our number one priority is protecting customers. If a gas shipper stops trading, industry processes ensure that gas supplies continue uninterrupted.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “Should any gas shippers cease trading, we have a clear, well-rehearsed process in place to make sure customers are protected and supply is not interrupted.”

FTSE 250 business Centrica, says it is busy looking after customers and pushing for regulatory reforms to try and “make sure this situation never recurs” - even as it starts to reverse customer losses by picking up those orphaned by failed rivals.

Shares sank more than 4.5pc, to 58.3p, as investors fretted over the delay to the strategy update from chief executive Chris O’Shea, who took over in April 2020 following a 70pc fall in the share price and loss of more than 1m customer accounts under predecessor Iain Conn.

Reacting to the postponement of the capital markets event, Deepa Venkateswaran, senior utilities analyst at Bernstein, said: “It makes sense for them to wait until things settle down and they have a better idea of what the market structure will be.

“For example, if they said [at a CMD day] ‘we don’t want to grow market share,’ and then five weeks later the Government asks them to take on new customers... There’s too much flux in the new environment.”

She added: “The environment has generally changed for the better for Centrica, but setting out a strategy for the retail business is difficult as the market structure may change dramatically by mid-November.”

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