Gas Connections, Gas Infrastructure, Siteworks, Site Services. These are all terms used to describe gas pipe installations connecting the National Grid’s gas mains, which run throughout mainland Britain, to a customer’s property and gas meters. Different utility companies and gas suppliers use alternative descriptions but they are all effectively the same. In this article we talk you through the behind the scenes activity and complexities involved in gas connections.
Our years of experience has shown us that customers are often surprised by the length of time it takes to organise gas pipes and meters and seem baffled by the complicated nature of them. This is largely due to the fragmented nature of the industry which means that no one company is responsible for all the components required from the start of a request for a quote through to completion of dug-up tarmac being replaced in the street. We will talk you through a typical request for a gas pipe and meter and who does what.
National Grid is one of the largest utility companies in the world and in recent years there have been many changes within the gas connections industry which have helped to bring greater competition to the undustry. However, this has also made organising gas connections works slightly trickier. This has created a need for gas suppliers and companies like 1Gas to offer assistance in putting gas infrastructure in place for customers who are perplexed by the apparent lack of easy co-ordination.The gas mains network is often referred to as the National Grid which runs through the streets and fields of mainland Great Britain. In fact, National Grid used to be called National Grid Transco but its name was changed in 2005 and four of the gas distribution networks were sold to other companies who became responsible for the upkeep of the network to distribute gas to homes and businesses and also deal with leaks, repairs, connections and disconnections of gas pipe services to properties. The areas covered by the change are: Scotland, North & North East England, South of England, Wales & West England. Gas distribution is the process whereby gas is taken from the high pressure transmission system and distributed through low pressure networks of pipes to industrial complexes, offices and homes. There are eight gas distribution networks (GDNs), each covering a separate geographical region of Britain. In addition, there are a number of smaller networks owned and operated by Independent Gas Transporters (IGTs) – most but not all of these networks have been built to serve new housing.There are many gas pipe connection companies situated throughout the British Isles who offer services to connect gas pipes too. When such a company (that isn’t a gas distribution company) organises a gas pipe connection they choose the appropriate network that will adopt the completed gas service pipe or mains and are then responsible for the upkeep. To add greater complexity, in some areas there are privately-owned gas networks, often referred to as Independent Gas Transporters or IGTs which connect into the larger National Grid network.
So the first stage in organising gas pipe or meter works is to obtain a quote. In most cases the long timescales customers experience in organising gas connections are due to the complexity in obtaining a quote (typically around 4 weeks) and the subsequent order process which can add at least another 8 weeks, sometimes much more. The typical lead time of a month to get a quote for a gas pipe covers the amount of time required to send out an engineer to perform a site survey, if required, and design a quote and design map based on the geography of the site and the nearest gas mains. Once a quote is accepted, lead times for works are normally available around a month afterwards with works being completed within around 2-3 months from quote acceptance. There are many factors which can increase these timescales, including periods of high work volume, contractor availability, council permission to dig up public roads, engineering difficulties, legal disputes over land ownership and weather conditions. Once a gas pipe connection is made from the mains to a customer’s property and an agreed termination point or meter position, the next stage is to obtain a gas meter from a Meter Asset Manager (MAM). These companies are licensed by OFGEM to fit gas meters to a gas transporter’s network. A MAM is also responsible for ensuring the design, installation, commissioning, maintenance, removal and disposal of gas supply meter installations is performed by suitably qualified persons or organisations in accordance with industry standards. Again, similar to gas pipe connection companies, there are many different MAMs to choose from and each offers different tariffs and processes to fit or remove a meter or replace a faulty device. To enable a gas meter to be fitted, a customer must obtain a gas supply agreement from a licensed gas supplier prior to installation.
Both Gas Transporters (GTs) and Meter Asset Managers (MAMs) obtain in part some of their revenue by charging gas suppliers what is, in effect, a rental known as transportation charges. This is the only way that, upon confirmation of a gas supply agreement, a MAM will fit a meter. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, once a gas meter is installed onto a live gas pipe, gas can then be taken from the gas network. Unlike electricity, gas cannot be turned off remotely and so to ensure that the gas consumed by a customer is paid for, it is imperative that a supplier will be able, contractually, to charge a customer for gas consumed and be able to keep records of meter readings. The second reason is that a MAM has to ensure that it will be able to charge a gas supplier a daily charge for the costs involved in the maintenance of a gas meter. This charge is often passed on to customers and is built into the cost of the gas supply contract. This is normally calculated as part of the Daily Standing Charge on gas bills amongst other behind the scenes costs to a supplier.
So, in summary, gas pipe and meter installation is not simply a case of one company having complete control over the whole process. There are often at least four of five companies involved in the whole process (the gas distribution company, the contractor physically installing the equipment, a local council who grant planning permission to dig up a road, a meter company (or their contractor) and a gas supplier, plus others.
Once a gas meter or pipe is complete, a customer must use an OFGEM approved Gas Safe registered engineer (previously CORGI) to safely connect the gas meter to their appliances. We hope that you have found this article helpful.