A dispute in the Middle East which has seen two cargoes of Liquefied Natural Gas diverted from the UK in the last week could mean the area needs gas from fracking, an energy expert has claimed.
But opponents of shale gas drilling say the claims are scaremongering to justify an environmentally damaging industry.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have all cut ties with the Gulf state of Qatar, a major supplier of LNG, over concerns that it is funding and supporting terrorism.
The ongoing diplomatic row has forced wholesale gas up by 4.5 per cent.
Nick Campbell, energy risk manager at Kirkham-based Inspired Energy, said it could get worse, especially if problems continue into the winter months.
He said: “We saw the issue of reduced LNG last winter, when the Far East purchased global supplies as temperatures dropped.
“If this was to continue into next winter, coupled with issues with Qatari deliveries into the UK, this would help to support winter gas prices at a time when demand is at its highest.”
In 2015 Qatar supplied more than 20 per cent of Britain’s gas imports.
The pro-fracking Lancashire For Shale group said ongoing price volatility could hit householders, businesses and hospitals.
It said Blackpool Victoria hospital relied on gas for most of its energy requirements. A spokesman said: “According to one publicly available annual report, it used 80 GWh (gigawatt hours) of gas in 2012/2013 compared with under 20 GWh of electricity.
“North West England is the UK’s biggest gas consuming region, using over 60,000 GWh in 2015.
“Of this, some 23,000 GWh was used by non-domestic customers - making the North West the biggest industrial consumer of gas too, where it is used as both a raw material in chemicals production and also to provide process heat.”
Mr Campbell added: “With a hung parliament in last week’s general election and Brexit negotiations just about to start, British householders, businesses and healthcare institutions already face great uncertainty – the potential for further disruptions to our gas supplies and related impacts on wholesale and retail prices will only serve to add to that uncertainty.
“A new domestic source of gas, including onshore shale gas, would help to overcome such problems in the future.”
But opponents disputed the claims. John Hobson from the Frack Free Lancashire group said: “This scaremongering from Lancashire For Shale is at best misguided and at worst deliberately misleading and irresponsible.
“Blackpool Victoria hospital and industry don’t need to worry. They will see no benefit from fracking while there is an abundance of natural gas on the world markets and while futures prices are below the lowest estimate for the cost of UK extraction. In Cuadrilla’s own words the impact of UK shale gas on commodity prices will be ‘insignificant’.”