Gas To The West Competition Launched By Utility Regulator

The competition to build a new gas pipeline serving the west of Northern Ireland has been launched by the Utility Regulator.

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

The scheme will cost around £200m, with up to £32.5m of that coming from the Department of Enterprise.

Likely bidders for the project include Phoenix Gas and Firmus Energy.

Both companies already own gas networks in Northern Ireland.

Phoenix owns the pipeline network in Greater Belfast and Larne, while Firmus owns what is known as the “10 towns” network that includes Armagh, Ballymena, Craigavon, Londonderry and Newry.

Other bidders are likely to include Mutual Energy and Scotia Gas which owns the network in Scotland.

The pipeline will allow up to 40,000 new customer connections and should allow some big industrial operators to significantly cut energy costs.

Utility Regulator chief executive Jenny Pyper said it would “provide choice, strengthen the competitiveness of the Northern Ireland energy market and promote further investment”.

It is expected that the licence to build the pipeline will be awarded this autumn.

After this, construction work is likely to take at least two years.

Enterprise Minster Arlene Foster said the project was important for Northern Ireland as a whole.