(Recasts, adds market reaction)
LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - A pipeline which supplies up to a fifth of Britain’s gas and helps North Sea oilfield production will have to stay shut for repairs until September but should reopen for winter when it is needed to heat British homes.
The CATS pipeline, which carries gas from a cluster of North Sea fields to Britain, was shut on July 1 after its concrete casing was damaged by a ship’s anchor in stormy seas at the end of June.
Operator BP warned when it shut the pipeline that it could take several weeks to repair the damage. After lengthy inspections by divers on the seabed off the coast of Teesside, BP confirmed in a statement on Monday that the scratch required a permanent patch up.
“It has been determined that the pipeline has suffered damage and a permanent repair will be required before the pipeline is safe to start up,” the company said.
The company plans to fit a metal sleeve to the affected part of the pipeline after divers had to remove a large part of the casing to inspect the damage.
“Design and fabrication of the sleeve is already under way and it is expected that the system will restart during September,” BP said.
CATS can supply 20 percent of Britain’s gas and some had feared the pipeline repairs might have dragged into winter, cutting supplies of the fuel used to heat most British homes and businesses when it is most needed.
Near-term gas prices surged on the UK gas market on Monday as supplies failed to keep up with strong demand and CATS looked unlikely to be able to boost supplies for at least a month. Gas prices for the coming winter were fairly stable as concern that CATS would be out for the peak demand months faded.
Oil production from the group of fields connected to the Central Area Transmission System pipeline network, known as CATS, has also been affected by the closure because many fields cannot extract oil while they are unable to send the associated gas to Britain.