New alliance is formed to oppose gas storage plans

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FOUR local environmental protection groups have joined forces to highlight their concerns over a number of planned energy storage projects in the Larne borough.

There are currently three separate proposals for energy storage projects in the local area, including plans by Islandmagee Storage Limited to create a 500 million cubic metre natural gas storage facility in Permian salt beds almost a mile beneath the lough.

Meanwhile, North East Storage has also proposed excavating gas storage caverns in the Larne area if they find suitable salt deposits, and Gaelectric Energy Storage (GES) aims to store energy underground in the form of compressed air.

A number of local groups have cited fears over a range of issues relating to these projects, including noise levels, health and safety, pollution, inadequate roads infrastructure and the potential effect on tourism.

And representatives from Larne and District Friends of the Earth, Marine Conservation Northern Ireland, North Coast Lobster Fishermen’s Association and the Islandmagee Action Group have now formed the East Antrim Marine Alliance, which aims to “respect the marine environment and to harvest the marine eco-system sustainably”.

Leanna Filbey from Larne and District Friends of the Earth told the Times: “Due to its unique geology, Larne is one of the few places in the UK and Ireland where salt deposits from ancient sea beds come close to the surface.

“If the salt layer is deep enough, caverns can be formed by using water at high pressure to dissolve the salt and form a cavern, as large as a cathedral, to store natural gas, or potentially to store compressed air.

“The East Antrim Marine Alliance has concerns that the disposal of hypersaline salt solution, created from the leaching of the salt caverns proposed by these commercial energy storage projects, will harm local marine biodiversity and have negative impacts on sustainable fisheries.

“Hypersaline will kill or be detrimental to the development of larval stages of fish and crustaceans if it is not dispersed thoroughly.

“By pooling together the resources of these various local groups, we can now put all our heads together and take advantage of the diverse range of expertise and knowledge on offer to get our message across to local people.

“Do we really need these caverns for energy storage? Will gas stored in them be used for the benefit of people in Northern Ireland, or sold to the highest bidder?”

“Anyone who shares these concerns and would like to get involved in the Alliance can email me on foelarne@gmail.com,” said Leanna Filbey.