Some 500 million cubic metres of gas are set to be stored in salt caverns a mile under Larne Lough on the north Antrim coast, after NI Environment Minister Alex Attwood have his go-ahead for the project earlier today.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that site preparation work will begin before the end of this year on the expected seven-year construction scheme.
The €492.5-million gas storage facility is expected to hold a 60-day supply to create a buffer against increasing energy price rises.
"This security of supply of energy will be a significant step forward in the way we manage our energy sector," said Minister Attwood. "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."
Meanwhile, environmentalists have voiced concerns over the planned disposal of salt from the caverns into the sea, and its potential to cause harm to marine wildlife and biodiversity.
Though Minister Attwood said he was conscious of environmental concerns, James Orr of Friends of the Earth argued that the dumping of hypersaline salt solution "will kill or be seriously detrimental to the development of larval stages of fish and crustaceans", and that Northern Ireland should rather be investing in renewable energy.
The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.