Pipeline plans mean cheaper gas could here by 2015

A MULTI-million pound plan which would see natural gas pipelines laid in Dungannon and Coalisland is to receive financial support from the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Executive will invest £32.5million in the project, a third of the anticipated cost, following a public consultation on gas extension during 2011 and a detailed economic appraisal by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

The project to provide new gas transmission will provide both short term and longer term construction and engineering jobs, says the Executive.

Energy Minister and Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster has welcomed the support of her colleagues in earmarking the funds needed to press ahead with the project.

She described the move as a “vote of confidence for the west”.

Gas could be in homes and businesses here as soon as 2015. And with the lower cost, it would address fuel poverty issues here as well as giving Dungannon businesses a competitive edge in terms of their energy costs.

“This is a good news story and a positive commitment by the Executive”, said Ms Foster.

“Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. By extending the gas network, it is my intention to see some 34,000 additional business and domestic consumers in the west benefitting from the current lower cost, convenience, and efficiency which natural gas provides.

“New natural gas provision will help to lower manufacturing and production costs for businesses, thus improving their competitiveness, and will also help to reduce the level of fuel poverty affecting some domestic consumers.”

The Utility Regulator will begin consulting on licensing issues for gas provision soon with plans to have gas licenses awarded by the end of the year.

“This will allow a gas company to commence network design, seek planning approval, and deal with environmental and wayleave issues, with the aim of commencing work on the construction of new gas pipelines in 2015. In the meantime, the Department will be engaging with the EU Commission seeking State aid approval for the subvention,” said Mrs Foster, who stated that investing in the energy infrastructure would “benefit several sectors of the economy.”

“Provision of new gas infrastructure will be welcome news for the hard pressed construction and engineering sectors as well as providing longer term jobs in the gas distribution and supply industries. I am also committed to seeing greater availability of natural gas to consumers in other parts of Northern Ireland where it is economically viable to provide new gas infrastructure.”