Energy regulators on both sides of the border have agreed to investigate the potential advantages of common arrangements for gas.
Energy Minister Nigel Dodds welcomed the publication of a memorandum of understanding by the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR) and the Republic's Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).
The regulators have said they will work together to consider the merits of common arrangements for gas in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Under European Union rules, Northern Ireland and the Republic are committed to developing a single European gas market intended to benefit citizens and improve Europe's competitiveness.
A single market for electricity for electricity producers in Ireland to sell their energy into one pool for suppliers to draw from became operational in November.
Mr Dodds said it was important that any common arrangements should benefit customers by attracting new entrants and encouraging competition, boosting choice.
He added: "The work by both regulatory authorities is encouraging and has the potential to lead to positive benefits for gas consumers in both jurisdictions, but there must be clear benefits to consumers before a decision can be taken to fully commit to such arrangements."
Under the memorandum, the regulators are to assess the advantages of common arrangements which would enable stakeholders north and south to buy, sell, transport, operate, develop and plan the natural gas market in both regions.