A company is planning a £250M project to drill down into the seabed off the Northern Irish coast to create huge caverns in which to store gas.
Islandmagee Storage Ltd (IMSL) has sought planning permission for the scheme which it hopes could see 500M.m³ of natural gas stored in ancient salt beds beneath the sea.
The proposed plant at Islandmagee, Co Antrim, would be the first of its kind anywhere in Ireland, and would help prevent energy shortages and create jobs.
IMSL wants to base the facility next to the existing Ballylumford power plant − to keep transportation costs and disruption to the local area low.
“This proposed development at Islandmagee is designed to supply up to 5% of UK and Ireland daily peak demand.”
Andrew Hindle , IMSL
The company has consulted geologists to confirm the feasibility of the scheme. It plans to drill almost one mile beneath Larne Lough and pump in sea water to dissolve the salt beds, creating seven huge caverns 160m high and 80m wide.
IMSL managing director Andrew Hindle said: “This proposed development at Islandmagee will make a significant contribution to the security of energy supplies and is designed to supply up to 5% of UK and Ireland daily peak demand.”
The company said the storage method has been used across Europe over the last 40 years and claimed it could benefit the Irish and British markets.
Surveys are said to have found that Larne Lough was the only location in Ireland that held salt deposits that were sufficiently thick to create the storage caverns.
The company claimed that because the proposed location is next to existing gas and electricity infrastructures, the impact on the environment would be reduced.