New gas lines for Strabane by 2016

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Work on a new gas network to serve the West - including Strabane - will likely commence later this year with the main development taking place in 2016.

Investment Minister Arlene Foster has revealed that the draft licences for the development of the new infrastructure will be awarded next month.

She revealed the progress in response to an Assembly Question tabled by Lord Morrow.

She explained: “In November 2014 the Utility Regulator confirmed Mutual Energy and Scotia Gas Networks as the ‘preferred applicants’ for new licences to develop natural gas infrastructure in the West.

“The Regulator is currently consulting on draft licences which are expected to be formally awarded next month.”

Once licences are granted work on the new network will proceed.

“Initial works to provide the new gas networks could commence later in 2015 with the main network development beginning in 2016,” said the Minister.

The Gas to the West project will serve Strabane, Omagh, Enniskillen, Derrylin, Dungannon, Coalisland, Cookstown and Magherafelt.

Two years ago the Executive agreed to provide grant funding of up to £32.5million to facilitate the extension of the Northern Ireland natural gas network to the West.

In order to provide this it was decided new or extended gas networks would be required and that the owners of the networks would require licences from the Utility Regulator.

Last year the Utility Regulator stated: “We expect the licenses to be granted in February 2015.”

The authority announced in November that the high pressure licence had been awarded to Northern Ireland Energy Holdings (Mutual Energy Ltd) and that the low pressure licence had been awarded to Scotia Gas Networks.

The Utility Regulator is responsible for regulating Northern Ireland’s natural gas industry and promoting efficient, economic and co-ordinated development.