InfraStrata plc’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Islandmagee Energy Limited, is developing a pioneering underground natural gas storage facility at Islandmagee, a sparsely-populated peninsula on the east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, located between the towns of Larne and Carrickfergus.
A pioneering natural gas storage facility, supported by the UK government, to efficiently and cost-effectively address the long-term energy needs of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.
Our flagship Islandmagee gas storage project was first established in 2010 when a layer of salt was discovered 1500m underneath Larne Lough. This salt layer is ideal for the establishment of underground gas storage caverns.
It is the only largescale gas storage project in the entire island of Ireland and lends itself naturally to boosting the security of energy supply to the entire island. The fact that gas will be stored in salt caverns allows for high deliverability rates into and out of the store, helping to balance the gas network in times of peak stress. The Islandmagee facility is expected to provide over 25% of the UK’s natural gas storage capacity (based on 2018 data) and will support the growing demand for gas-fired power development and renewable energy generation throughout the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.
The storage caverns are formed by drilling wells from the well pad into the salt layer thereafter removing the salt (in a brine solution) and discharging it into the fast flowing Irish Sea via the leaching plant and pumping station. The rates and levels of discharge are highly regulated activities governed by the regulations set by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (“DAERA”). Our proposed discharge rates are well within the legal environmental limits and we have further proposed a monitoring program that is in excess of these legal requirements.
The gas injection and withdrawal facility will be constructed on the surface and this will facilitate moving gas from the network to be injected into the caverns in times of excess supply and, conversely, withdrawn from the caverns back into the gas network when there is a shortage of gas supply. The project will have seven storage caverns and subject to approvals there may be an opportunity to develop further caverns.
The current expectation is that pre enabling work, which is not reliant on the Marine License will commence in Q1 2021 with FID expected in H1 2021. Assuming the marine license is issued in Q1 2021 we expect first gas in 2024. The project has the advantage of being a Net Zero transition project from natural gas to hydrogen (subject to approvals required for hydrogen storage).
We have now formally departed from the European Union; however, we will continue to have strong domestic demand for gas and pressures on our gas delivery network during times of high stress will continue each year. However, in the absence of adequate domestic storage, we will stand exposed to the risk of physical gas not flowing from the EU into the UK during peak periods until local EU demand has been fully satiated.
The events from the past (such as the Beast from the East) have demonstrated our reliance on imported gas and the volatility in price and physical supply in the absence of domestic gas storage. The UK until recently had the Rough gas storage facility and substantial domestic production. With UK indigenous production declining, gas storage has become increasingly essential to ensure that the UK does not suffer from interruptions in power supply.
The Green Agenda
The UK government has set substantial targets to tackle climate change and this project will be at the heart of those targets.
The facility has the potential to store hydrogen or in the first instance to provide blends of hydrogen as we move towards this fuel over the next few decades. Whilst much effort has been put into developing front end technologies for hydrogen production, without largescale hydrogen storage solutions, those technologies will struggle to reach commercial reality.
Further approvals will be required in the future when that transition period arrives, however, we could possibly jumpstart this process by seeking approvals for one cavern initially with the intention to transition other caverns subsequently. Despite being in its early stages of development from a mass production and consumption point of view, it is abundantly clear that hydrogen storage will be absolutely essential in the future.