Northern Ireland news

Extension for responses to consultation on Islandmagee Gas Storage Project

Site of the proposed Islandmagee gas storage facility

THE Environment Agency (NIEA) says it will accept responses to a consultation about a contentious gas storage facility for an extra seven days after complaints it had been published over the Christmas break.

InfraStrata is applying to extract seawater to dissolve salt for its Islandmagee Gas Storage Project and discharge the effluent at the eastern side into the Irish Sea.

It is planning to creating huge caverns under the seabed at the Islandmagee peninsula between Larne and Carrickfergus to store gas.

They would be capable of storing up to 500 million cubic metres of gas formed by 'solution mining' or leaching involving the use and disposal of large volumes of seawater.

Details of the consultation were published shortly before Christmas, when the Executive was also putting out rapidly changing information about Covid regulations and Brexit, leading to fears it might have been missed by interested parties.

Objectors to the licences who have contacted NIEA demanded to know why a virtual brine dispersal model was not included in information released to the public and expressed concerns that the impact zone will be larger than mentioned in previous documents.

They also queried whether what they describe as a new mention of sonar has been assessed, suggesting it "raises concerns of harm to dolphins, porpoise and whales".

A spokeswoman said NIEA while it "does not propose to formally extend the advertising period for the discharge consent and abstraction licence applications for the Islandmagee Gas Storage Project... the impacts due to Christmas period and additional Covid restrictions are fully recognised so NIEA will continue to accept responses up to seven days after the advertising period ends."

This will see responses accepted until January 20.

NIEA insist the "majority" of information provided in the latest advertisement "has already been the subject of extensive consultation through their application and supporting information for a Marine Construction Licence".

That closed in March 2020 at which time it says "a significant number of comments" were received.

"The new information in this advertisement relates only to that contained within the application forms themselves and no additions or amendments have been made to the substantial documents which has already been presented by the applicant under the Marine Construction Licence."

The information is available to view at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations. Hard copies are available by contacging NIEA.DICAPAdmin@daera-ni.gov.uk.

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