Gas to West: Bids from four companies

image captionThree companies are bidding to build a new gas pipeline

Four companies have now submitted bids to build a new gas pipeline serving the west of Northern Ireland.

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

Bids have been lodged by Phoenix Gas, Firmus Energy, Bord Gáis Eireann (UK) and a joint venture between Mutual Energy and Scotia Gas.

The scheme will cost about £200m.

Up to £32.5m of that will come from the Department of Enterprise.

Phoenix and Firmus already own gas networks in Northern Ireland.

Phoenix owns the pipeline network in greater Belfast and Larne.

Firmus controls what is known as the "10 towns" network that includes Armagh, Ballymena, Craigavon, Londonderry and Newry.

Bord Gáis Eireann, the Republic of Ireland's state-owned energy firm, owned Firmus until earlier this year when it agreed to sell it to Icon Infrastructure.

Mutual Energy controls the gas pipeline between Scotland and Northern Ireland while its partner owns the gas network in Scotland.

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

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.

The licence has two parts: a high pressure pipeline and a low pressure distribution network which will deliver the gas to individual connections.

It is possible that the two different parts of the licence could be awarded to different companies.

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