Chronology of the natural gas industry

Because of the extensive domestic resources of oil and gas, the natural gas industry developed in North America before it started in Europe. With on-shore discoveries in the Netherlands and the advent of the North Sea gas fields in the 1960s and 1970s the natural gas industry was launched in Europe, with conversion from town and coke gas to natural gas.

Liberalisation of the natural gas industry has run in parallel but slightly behind the liberalisation of the electricity sector but with distinct differences. Gas liberalisation was first introduced in the United States with the reforms of 1978 when wellhead gas prices were deregulated and has progressed steadily since then with a series of enactments and rulings from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). By the early 1990s it was well advanced. With the exception of the UK, Europe has been much slower to liberalise its gas markets and in practice deregulation is lagging behind targets set by the EU. This is in contrast to the electricity sector, where Europe is ahead of the US in liberalising it markets, although still behind the targets of the EU.

Every country in the world has an electricity supply industry, producing and distributing power but not every country has a natural gas industry. Immense volumes of gas are extracted from exploration and production areas scattered around the world and transported over long distances by pipeline or tanker to the consumption centres, at considerable cost. This gives the gas transport industry a greater leverage than their equivalents in the electricity sector.