A £400 million natural gas storage project at Islandmagee has been given a major boost by the European Union this week.
The proposed facility, which involves the creation of underground caverns to store up to two month’s worth of Northern Ireland’s total gas requirement, has received ‘Project of Common Interest’ (PCI) status by the European Commission and is now included on a Europe-wide list of the most important energy projects.
PCI designation means the scheme has been recognised by the European authorities as bringing benefits not only to the member state in which it is located, but to a much wider area and is important at a European level.
Crucially, the project must also be given priority and quick passage by relevant member states in the permitting process, and cooperation in its development.
Another benefit of PCI status is that the project is now eligible to apply for significant financial support from the European Union – this could be in the form of a direct grant or other forms of financial backing from institutions such as the European Investment Bank.
The gas storage project is being developed in a joint venture between lead partner, UK independent oil and gas company InfraStrata and local company Mutual Energy.
Chief Executive of Mutual Energy, Paddy Larkin said: “PCI designation shows that the contribution this project can make to energy security of supply and system flexibility in Ireland north and south, and in Britain, has been recognised objectively by Europe.
“Essentially, Europe is saying that this project will benefit energy consumers on these islands and national authorities should ensure that it goes ahead.
“This direct message from Europe is timely as perhaps the biggest challenge facing the project is getting the regulatory environment right for a project that crosses a number of jurisdictions”.
Chief Executive of InfraStrata, Andrew Hindle added: “It is worth noting that this is the only gas storage project in the UK to have been designated a PCI.
“This reflects the very advantageous location at Islandmagee which offers a uniquely favourable geology for gas storage, as well as close proximity to strong points on the gas and electricity networks.
“PCI status tells us that we have a very worthwhile project and that national authorities should provide every reasonable assistance in its development.”