Government provisional figures released on Thursday showed a 9.3pc jump in gas imports in the first six months of 2013 against the same period of 2012.

The period saw renewed attention on the security of Britain’s gas supply, with the gas price spiking in late March when a key import pipeline was temporarily closed and gas storage facilities were almost depleted from the winter.

The new figures show that Britain relied on pipelines, primarily from Norway and the Netherlands, for 81pc of its imports, with the remainder shipped to the UK as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The LNG cargoes were overwhelmingly from Qatar, with a handful from Algeria.

The growing reliance on imports stems from a drop in domestic gas production from the North Sea as reserves at older fields are used up.

Production has fallen every year for a decade and Oil & Gas UK, the industry body, last week warned 2013 could see a new record slump of 22pc.

Government figures show Britain’s gross gas production fell 8.3pc to 729bn cubic feet in the first six months of 2013 as it continued to feel the effect of the shutdown of Total’s Elgin platform in the North Sea following the major gas leak in March 2012, as well as other maintenance issues.

Meanwhile the colder weather saw gas demand rise, compared with the unusually mild start to 2012.

Demand data is not yet available for the second quarter of this year, but the first quarter saw a 12pc increase in total UK gas demand, compared with the same period of 2012, driven by a 22.1pc increase in domestic usage.

Iron and steel industries increased demand by 8.3pc in the first quarter while other businesses also saw increases, in encouraging signs of economic recovery.