A more independent role for the research and development centre would be consistent with British Gas's plans to demerge next year into a transmission and exploration business and a separate supply company, both of which would be customers for research.
The main research body is the Gas Research Centre at Loughborough, which develops new technology for British Gas's own use, but it is also a commercial enterprise in its own right, selling research services to other companies.
The pounds 100m Loughborough centre was opened in 1994 and a year later won a Royal Society of Engineering award for the development of a new ultrasonic gas meter, the only organisation to have won this three times. It claims to be the technological and scientific leader in the international gas industry. Last year British Gas spent pounds 66m on world-wide research and development, a reduction from pounds 75m in 1994, pounds 80m in 1993 and pounds 89m in 1992.
This covered work on future gas supply, such as seismic studies, security of supply, cost reductions, energy-efficient heating for houses and research on gas-fired air conditioning systems. British Gas's technologists are also responsible for research on safety, the improvement of operational techniques and preservation of the environment.
Industry View, page 23