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Underground Gas Storage

Last modified: 19 October 2012

Oystercatcher pulling worm from mud

Image: Steve Round

The RSPB urges Islandmagee Storage Limited to proceed with caution following the recent granting of approval by DOE Planning for their above ground facilities associated with proposed natural gas storage facility.

As part of the planning application process, the RSPB valued the opportunity to comment on the potential impacts of the proposal, given its adjacency to Larne Lough Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site and Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), and its proximity to the Gobbins ASSI and Portmuck ASSI, both with ornithological site selection features.

The RSPB's response concentrated on the potential effects of the brine outfall on the food chain of coastal seabirds, and especially those species that are features of Larne Lough SPA.  We also identified the fact that a test borehole is required to understand the specific composition of the halite, as it is only following such analysis that a full understanding of the impacts of the brine outfall from the discharge point can be understood.  We have therefore requested to remain a consultee throughout the various stages of this proposal, so as to ensure our comments remain valid against any changing parameters.  

On reviewing the planning approval we are pleased to observe that DOE Planning has had regard to our recommendations in preparing the decision notice.

While we welcome the fact that a pre-commencement condition has been attached to the approval notice relating to the preparation and approval of an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) (to consolidate all the potential impacts from the various aspects of the proposal during each phase), we do however feel that it has fallen short in its failure to make reference to the decommissioning phase.  RSPB has reserved the right to comment on the EMP prior to its approval. 

We similarly approve of the pre-commencement requirement for the preparation and approval of a Species and Habitat Management Plan, including a programme of ornithological monitoring, and have sought to reserve further comment prior to any approval.

As this granting of approval relates only to the above ground facilities associated with the gas storage facility, we will continue to monitor and comment upon further submissions relating to the underground element of the proposal.

RSPB will continue to recommend the adoption of the precautionary principle with regards to this development proposal.

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