|The Natural Gas Era - The Conversion programme|
| Natural gas has different characteristics to town gas and this meant that all gas appliances had to be converted to use the new fuel. This involved armies of gas engineers invading the homes of all 13 million gas customers all over the country to make the necessary adjustments. |
The changeover to natural gas involved identifying suitable sized areas or sectors that could be isolated from the gas distribution network. Well before conversion took place all gas users in the sector were surveyed to find what parts were needed to adapt their gas appliances. On the day of changeover, all customers were required to switch off their appliances and the old town gas was purged from the local mains system. Gas engineers then went from house to house fitting the new parts and when this was complete for every gas user in the sector, natural gas was allowed into the mains system and conversion was finished for that sector. It took up to a week to convert each sector.
About 40 million appliances of all types were converted in the programme, including almost two thousand different designs of gas cookers. The conversion programme started in May 1967 near Burton on Trent, Derbyshire and was completed in 1977. It was hugely expensive for British Gas, costing £ 563 million or £ 42 per customer.
Conversion was intended primarily to give customers the benefit of natural gas from the North Sea but a secondary result was that every single gas appliance in the country was inspected and brought up to standard.
Partly as a result of conversion, the number of deaths caused by burnt and unburnt gas fell from 1,246 in 1963 and 745 in 1965 to just 271 in 1970.
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Making gas from coal|
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The Natural Gas Era