Planning permission has been granted for the Gas to the West underground pipelines, which will see the delivery of natural gas in Portadown, Dungannon, Cookstown, Coalisland, Magherafelt, Omagh, Enniskillen and Derrylin.

The £200 million energy infrastructure project, which will receive up to £32 million from the Northern Ireland Executive, will include a 78km high pressure cross-country pipeline between Portadown and Fivemiletown and a 107km intermediate pipeline to serve Cookstown, Magherafelt, Coalisland, Omagh, Enniskillen and Derrylin. A number of regulator stations will be placed along the route to reduce the pressure of the gas for onward distribution.

Gas to the West will bring gas to around 40,000 homes and businesses in the west of the province. 

It is expected that Enniskillen and Derrylin will be connected to the gas pipeline by 2018.

Seven letters of objection were received but the project has been widely welcomed by the main political parties and public representatives; business organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and major energy consumers such as Dale Farm and Encirc in Derrylin.

A letter from Encirc said: “We currently have three HGV tanker loads of fuel delivered to the Derrylin plant each day from Belfast, which has already been shipped a significant distance from overseas. A piped natural gas supply would negate the need to transport this fuel by ship and road.” 

He added that natural gas furnaces would be more environmentally friendly than the heavy fuel oil currently used at the plant which releases sulphur and nitrogen oxides into the air.

Gas to the West project promoters SGN Natural Gas and Mutual Energy Limited commented: "We are delighted at reaching the point of full planning permission for Gas to the West. This is a very important milestone for the project and we are pleased that such a complex planning application was processed efficiently. We are very grateful to planning services and everyone who participated in the public consultation process and will ensure that the project fully complies with the conditions of the planning permission.

"The Gas to the West project now moves to the construction phase and takes us closer to realising our goal which is bringing the very significant benefits of natural gas to many thousands of households and businesses in the west of Northern Ireland in the years ahead."