Published Thursday, 18 October 2012
Environment Minister Alex Attwood. (© Pacemaker)
The backers of the £400m Islandmagee project intend to keep up to 500 million cubic metres of natural gas in huge egg-shaped caverns.
Once full the facility would contain enough fuel to keep Northern Ireland supplied for around 60 days.
Development of the scheme is being bankrolled by energy giant BP which could eventually take control of the whole operation.
The Environment Minister maintains the gas storage plan is safe.
Alex Attwood said: "I am very conscious that there are environmental concerns about this.
"However there has been an exhaustive consultation process and I am satisfied that this proposal can obtain other relevant consents and proceed in a way that creates jobs and develops the economy whilst protecting the environment.
North Sea gas supplies are declining steeply and this facility will make a significant contribution to the security of gas supplies for the whole island of Ireland and indeed for Britain.
"Further, gas storage has the potential to reduce volatility in energy prices - gas can be purchased for storage when prices are low for use or sale when prices are higher. This is important for Northern Ireland's future economic development."
Energy Minister Arlene Foster has welcomed the decision by the DOE.
She said: "Natural gas is used to fuel two of Northern Ireland's power stations and also by an increasing number of business and domestic energy consumers.
"As we currently have no natural gas storage facility this is a strategically important project as it will enhance our security of energy supply.
"We are fortunate that East Antrim's geology means that there are salt formations deep underground which can be converted to caverns to store gas. The development of a gas storage facility will help us to meet our energy supply demands."
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