Evolution of the Gas Industry by Malcolm W. H. Peebles (auth.)

By Malcolm W. H. Peebles (auth.)

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At the time of the Heyworth Enquiry, the industry comprised 1047 undertakings, which ranged in size from undertakings supplying single villages to the (London) Gas Light and Coke Company, which alone accounted for 12 per cent of total gas sales. In addition, there were 19 companies, such as railways and collieries, supplying small quantities of gas to the public as an activity subsidiary to their main business. 5 million. Whether one supports or not the concept of public ownership, and whether one agrees or disagrees that a state-owned monopoly is the most effective way of running the gas industry is, of course, a matter of personal opinion.

Once the work is complete the pipe will be buried and the land and river banks restored to their original condition (British Gas Corporation) reinforcing and adapting local distribution systems. However, much of this expenditure would be incurred whether the conversion or the reforming route was adopted and thus this expenditure did not materially affect the decision either way. The task before the industry was huge by any standards. There were some 13! million premises to visit, not once but two or three times at least; 35 million appliances, with perhaps 200 million burners, and 8000 different domestic appliance models to convert.

In essence the manufactured gas industry was, as the name implies, heavily orientated towards the manufacture of gas and with the distribution of a low calorific value fuel at low pressures over relatively short distances. For gas companies the advent of natural gas represented far more than just converting consumers' appliances to accept a higher calorific value gas of different burning characteristics: it was a much more radical change for them. It necessitated a wholesale change of thinking and attitudes, in particular highly developed, long-established skills in the manufacture of gas were no longer required.

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