Oil and gas exploration company InfraStrata has succeeded in raising sufficient funds to proceed with drilling a test well in Islandmagee.
The firm plans to create seven underground caverns to store 500 million cubic metres of natural gas a mile beneath Larne Lough, enough to satisfy Northern Ireland’s demand for 60 days.
But it must first carry out test drilling to obtain unique cores of the Permian salt which exists deep below the surface.
The European Union has agreed to stump up half the £4m cost of drilling the well and carrying out additional engineering studies, as long as InfraStrata can match the sum.
And the company confirmed it has now secured the remaining £1.9m balance, after it placed millions of shares on the London Stock Exchange.
The test well – which is planned to get underway in May– will be drilled from the already constructed wellpad site off Ballylumford Road.
The EU-backed gas storage project is being managed by Islandmagee Storage Limited (IMSL), a joint venture between InfraStrata, which holds 65 per cent, and Moyle Energy Investments, which owns the remaining 35 per cent.
Anita Gardiner, Managing Director of IMSL said: “The company is delighted to have secured this important funding which will enable us to move significantly forward with this exciting project.
“The analysis of the Permian salt is an integral part in the development of the £274 million Islandmagee gas storage project, which is recognised on a European level as a strategically important asset that will have a significant positive impact on the dynamics of the gas market in the whole of Ireland and add hugely to the security of gas supplies in NI.”
Two dedicated stakeholder liaison groups have been established for the project – a Community Liaison Group and a Marine Science Group.
The purpose of the groups is to ensure that during construction and subsequent operation of the facility, IMSL works closely with the community to minimise the impact on its neighbours.
The project has attracted hundreds of objections, with environmentalists fearing the firm’s intention to pump brine out to sea from the excavated caverns will harm marine and bird life.