Test drilling is set to take place in Islandmagee next year as plans to construct a natural gas storage facility continue to progress.
The £400m project will see the creation of huge underground caverns carved from prehistoric salt deposits a mile under Larne Lough.
The next stage of the scheme will see developer Islandmagee Storage Limited (IMSL) drill a data gathering well from the already-constructed wellpad site off the Ballylumford Road.
This will allow the company to obtain cores of Permian salt for testing and analysis.
Anita Gardiner, Director of Islandmagee Storage said: “The findings from the analysis will allow Islandmagee Storage to complete the design of the caverns.
“It is hoped that the drilling of this data gathering well can be undertaken in spring 2015.”
IMSL held two information events last week – one in Islandmagee and one in Glynn – where members of the public could drop in to view the latest information on the project’s development.
A joint venture between a subsidiary of InfraStrata plc (65% shareholder) and Moyle Energy Investments Limited, part of the Mutual Energy group of companies (35% shareholder), IMSL plans to create seven caverns, capable of storing up to a total of 500 million cubic metres of gas – enough to satisfy NI’s demand for 60 days.
Islandmagee Storage was granted planning permission for the above ground facilities in October 2012. In addition to planning permission, the project has been granted a gas storage licence from the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation and IMSL have agreed leases with the Crown Estate.
Draft marine licences have been issued by the Department of the Environment and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Further consents and funding will also be needed before the project can proceed to full construction and operation.