Islandmagee Storage Limited (IMSL) commenced drilling below Larne Lough this week as part of its multimillion pound gas storage project.
The Ballylumford Road test well, which is expected to take around five weeks to complete, will allow the company to obtain samples of Permian salt from a mile below Larne Lough.
The company will then carry out analysis on the 250 million-year-old salt deposits to confirm the project’s viability and complete the design of the seven underground caverns in which it proposes to create and store 500 million cubic metres of natural gas.
The gas generated would be enough to satisfy Northern Ireland’s demand for 60 days.
IMSL is a joint venture between InfraStrata, which owns 65 per cent of the firm, and Moyle Energy Investments, which owns the remaining 35 per cent.
Managing Director of IMSL Anita Gardiner commented: “The analysis of the Permian salt is an integral part in the development of the gas storage project. “The project is recognised on a European level as a strategically important asset that will improve the security of supply and increase the flexibility available in the gas markets in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and enable greater interconnectivity across these three neighbouring markets, whilst supporting the achievement of national renewable and carbon reduction targets.”
IMSL aims to have all the laboratory analyses, including rock mechanical tests to further define the design parameters and cost estimate for the project, completed by the end of 2015.
Half of the £4m cost of drilling the well 2015 is being funded by the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility while the remainder is being financed by Infrastrata after it placed shares on the London Stock Exchange.
Last week, The Times revealed that Gaelectric was seeking an alternative site for its compressed air energy storage (CAES) project, and was considering sites in the Islandmagee area.
Inver resident Anne Mundell, who formed part of a residents’ group opposing the development of the Gaelectric facility in Larne, said that the IMSL and Gaelectric projects were bad news for the Islandmagee area.
She commented: “The impact of these projects on The Gobbins, which a lot of money has been spent on, and Portmuck will be to lessen tourists and harm rare sea life. It’s an absolute nightmare and we will oppose these plans.”