Islandmagee gas plan is submitted

A PLANNING application submitted this week for a £250m natural gas storage facility at Islandmagee is being seen as a major step forward for Ireland's energy infrastructure.

The application, by Islandmagee Storage Limited (IMSL), relates to the creation of a 500 million cubic metres natural gas storage facility - enough to satisfy Northern Ireland’s peak demand for more than 60 days – in Permian salt beds almost a mile beneath Larne Lough.

This method of storing natural gas has been used throughout Europe for more than 40 years. The project has the potential to create around 200 construction jobs during its even-year development with an additional 20-30 longer term operational posts.

Andrew Hindle, managing director of IMSL said: “The island of Ireland currently has no natural gas storage and relies increasingly on gas imports from outside the UK. This proposed development at Islandmagee will make a significant contribution to the security of energy supplies and is designed to supply up to five per cent of UK and Ireland daily peak demand.

“The submission of this planning application represents a major milestone on the road to making this very important infrastructure development a reality. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the industry, government, community and regulator during the development of the project,” said Mr Hindle.

Storage of natural gas within salt is restricted to areas where salt sequences are sufficiently thick to create caverns. The Larne Lough area is the only place on the island of Ireland where a suitable underground salt sequence has been found. A detailed seismic survey, undertaken by IMSL in 2007, confirmed the presence of a thick Permian salt layer 1,500 metres below sea level close to Ballylumford. In addition to the favourable geology of the area, Islandmagee already contains the main gas and electricity network required for gas storage. The proximity to this important infrastructure reduces both the environmental impact of the facility and its cost of construction.

Speaking about the benefits of the scheme for industry in Northern Ireland, Paddy Larkin, IMSL Non-executive Director, said: “The Islandmagee Storage Project is strategically important for the future competitiveness of Northern Ireland – companies seeking to invest here in the future will require energy security and stable prices, which gas storage can contribute to.”

Commenting on the positive impact for gas consumers, Mr Larkin added: “The project has the potential to provide a stabilising influence on prices, reducing price volatility and thereby lowering wholesale gas prices at times of peak demand.”

The planning application for the Islandmagee Storage Project is the culmination of almost three years of specialist investigative work and environmental assessments.

Accompanying the application is a detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which highlights any potential impacts from the scheme and explains how these will be mitigated during and after construction. Copies of a non-technical summary of the EIS will be distributed widely across Islandmagee and can be downloaded from the project website

I MSL has consulted throughout with the local community on its plans for developing this gas storage facility and has given a commitment to setting up a charitable trust as part of a unilateral undertaking contribution.

Speaking about the importance of working with the local community, Andrew Hindle said: “IMSL is not only committed to making an important contribution to the nation’s energy security, but also to helping local initiatives that support education, geology and the environment. We look forward to working with the local community as this exciting project unfolds.”