A unit of oil giant BP has secured an option to acquire over a 50pc stake in a planned £250m (€300m) gas storage project in Co Antrim. The facility would be the largest of its kind on the island if construction proceeds.
Infrastrata, a UK company, currently holds 65pc of Islandmagee Storage -- the entity established to advance the scheme. It said that BP Gas Marketing has agreed to fund the activities necessary to develop the project up to the point where a decision can be made on whether to proceed with a detailed engineering design.
BP will also pay Islandmagee Storage -- which is 35pc owned by Moyle Energy Investments -- a total of £400,000 to cover the cost of work already undertaken in developing the project. Half has been paid and the remainder will be paid if planning permission is granted. Moyle Energy is a subsidiary of Northern Ireland group Mutual Energy.
BP Gas Marketing now has an option to acquire just over 50pc of Islandmagee Storage. Should it be exercised, Infrastrata will be left owning just over 32pc and Moyle Energy over 17pc.
It's expected that planning permission for the project could be secured in the first half of this year.
"It is important that the Northern Ireland government and regulatory authorities, in conjunction with their counterparts in the south, can deliver the necessary regulatory environment to allow the project to proceed in a timely fashion and to ensure it can compete on a level playing field with gas storage elsewhere in the UK and Ireland," said Mutual Energy chief executive Paddy Larkin.