UK factories could be forced to stop production amid fears the country has only enough gas to ensure household supplies in the current freezing weather.
The alarm was raised by National Grid when it issued a “gas deficit warning” early on Wednesday amid high demand to keep homes and businesses warm as strong winds from Siberia continue to sweep blizzard conditions across the country.
The icy blast has been made worse by the arrival of Storm Emma which is set to intensify snowfall.
National Grid said there was a shortfall of around 50 million cubic metres and it could limit use in non-essential industry later in the day and into Friday unless further supplies could be secured.
The requirement is aimed at keeping home boilers burning.
Its statement read: “National gas demand today is high and due to the extreme weather conditions, there have been gas supply losses overnight.
“At 5.45am this morning we issued a ‘Gas Deficit Warning’ to the market.
“This is an indication to the market that we’d like more gas to be made available to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the national gas network.
“We are in communication with industry partners and are closely monitoring the situation.”
The energy operator’s warning was made 24 hours after Sky News reported a doubling in the cost of wholesale gas for immediate delivery on Wednesday morning.
Experts pointed to a series of factors, including the weather, for prices reaching 12-year highs.
The main one was the growing reliance the UK has on gas pipelines as storage dwindles – making wholesale costs more prone to market developments.
These included disruption at a gas processing plant in Norway which knocked imports to the UK.