Infrastrata licence bid for £303m gas storage project out for public consultation
A public consultation has been launched into a bid for a marine licence for the Islandmagee gas storage project.
InfraStrata plc, which bought Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff this year, said it had received confirmation from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs that a public consultation had been launched.
It needs a full marine licence to build the £303m gas storage project in Larne. It already has a draft permit.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 stipulates that a marine licence is required for certain activities, such as dredging and construction
The company said that buying H&W would save it large sums of money in construction costs for pieces of machinery needed for gas storage.
John Wood, the chief executive and interim chairman of InfraStrata, said: "We are delighted to have maintained momentum on our flagship Islandmagee gas storage project, supporting our previously advised view that the public consultation would commence during 2019.
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"Unfortunately, when working with regulatory authorities, we must adhere to their timelines and follow the strict process set out for such applications. We are glad to have successfully reached this stage and look forward to successfully completing this process and formally obtaining our full marine licence."
Speaking to this newspaper in October, Mr Wood said that buying H&W would save his company £45m on a proposed spend of £303m for the Islandmagee project.
Work on fabrication for the scheme would be the "backbone" of the work, "but we'll capitalise on opportunities when they arise", he explained.
The Islandmagee project will involve extracting salt from beneath the coastline at Larne before it is processed and then piped across the Islandmagee peninsula.
InfraStrata has said the process would have "minimum impact to resident species and the environment".
But campaign groups have raised environmental concerns about the process.
Yesterday the campaign group Stop InfraStrata was advising opponents of the scheme to object during the consultation.
InfraStrata has said the facility would address the "long-term energy needs of the UK and the Irish Republic".
It said that, once complete, it would consist of several underground caverns capable of storing up to 500 million cubic metres of gas.
The scheme was granted project of common interest status by the EU.
InfraStrata said that it had invested £14.5m in aspects of the project, including engineering, land purchase, environmental, marine, geological and geophysical studies. It has said that the facility would be able to provide more than 25% of the UK's natural gas storage capacity and would support gas-fired power development and renewable energy generation.
The consultation, which begins today, will run over Christmas and into the new year, closing on February 7.
Mr Wood said there would be further updates in coming days.
"We continue to remain of the firm belief that there should be no reason why the existing draft marine licence will not be converted to a full marine licence after following due process," he added.
"We further look forward to ramping up enabling works early in 2020."