A US energy company has come on board as a major investor in a £250m gas storage facility planned for Islandmagee.
The directors of Islandmagee Storage Ltd (IMSL) announced yesterday that Texas-based developer eCORP International is to make a significant investment in the project.
Plans for the 500 million cubic metres natural gas storage facility constructed in Permian salt beds a mile beneath Larne Lough were first submitted in March.
The developers believe it could hold enough gas to satisfy Northern Ireland's peak demand for more than 60 days. Drilling will start next year with the first gas stored there in 2015 if planning permission is approved.
Houston-headquartered eCORP has committed to investing £13.5m to earn a 40% interest in the project. Its investment will fund the project development costs up to the construction phase.
Following the deal, the interests of the existing partners in the project - Infrastrata plc and Mutual Energy Ltd - will reduce to 39% and 21% respectively.
The companies will jointly provide Islandmagee Storage with technical services.
Paddy Larkin, IMSL non-executive director, said: "The investment is a major vote of confidence in the Islandmagee Storage Project and in Northern Ireland."
Mr Larkin added that the project offers "important energy security and supply benefits".
The storage facility will cost £250m to build, potentially creating 200 jobs during its seven-year development and up to 30 posts once operational.
Currently more than 60% of Northern Ireland's electricity is produced by gas-fired power stations.