The prospect of further energy price rises this winter heightened as wholesale gas prices soared by 15pc in one day after a leak was detected in a key Norwegian pipeline. As a result, British consumers, who have already seen gas bills rise by as much as 35pc of late, could end up paying even more in the coming months.
The price increase in the wholesale markets was a result of news that Norway's Statoil Hydro had found a leak in the pipeline from its Kvitebjoern platform in the Norwegian North Sea to its Kollsnes gas treatment facility outside Bergen.
The company said a "small leak" was discovered during a routine inspection of the pipeline, in the same place where it was damaged last autumn, which had since been temporarily repaired.
In a statement, Statoil added that it was now considering when the pipeline could be re-opened, but stressed that its gas customers were "not likely to be affected by the incident".
However, its reassurance was not enough to calm the gas markets, with the price of winter gas surging by 15pc to an intra-day high of 104p per therm, above the record highs seen in June this year, and around double the price this time last year.
"There's a lot of panic and short covering going on," one gas trader admitted.
The events in the Norwegian gas market are important to Britain because the country remains such a significant source of gas to the UK, which now imports around 40pc of gas due to dwindling North Sea reserves.