firmus energy is a natural gas distribution and supply company, based in Antrim. Since 2005, firmus energy has connected over 42,000 customers in its licence area (outside Greater Belfast) and supplies over 92,000 customers across Northern Ireland.
There are currently over 10,000 customers in the Derry/Londonderry area and firmus energy plan to lay a further 21km of mains in Q1/Q2 of 2019. A further 65km of gas pipeline is planned across the city before 2029 to make natural gas available to over 25,000 homes and businesses in the city and surrounding area.
As part of this significant development programme firmus energy has been showcasing their £3 million River Foyle Crossing project, the largest directional drill project undertaken on the island of Ireland. The project involved the installation of a 355mm diameter, 660m long, 2-inch thick wall polyethylene (PE) beneath the River Foyle from Strathfoyle to Culmore Road at the Old Thornhill College site.
The ambitious project, which has been over two years in planning, will meet the increasing demand for natural gas in the area and will provide enough gas for continued network buildout for the next 20 years.
Using a 50 tonne directional drilling machine, the work was carried out by local, specialist drilling contractor, McCormack Drilling. The firm drilled a 660m long, 550mm diameter hole through rock 25m under the river bed and under the Derry/Londonderry to Coleraine railway line. The pipe was then welded and pulled through the hole in one continuous operation. Once installed the pipe was tested to ensure integrity of welding and then commissioned with natural gas.
Commenting on the project, Jonathan Strain, Construction Manager, says: “This innovative project will bring much needed network capacity over the next 20 years which is vital given the growing demand for gas in the city. The project has been in planning for quite some time and it is great to see it completed. Together with Kier, our main contractor and McCormack and Son’s, a specialist directional drilling sub-contractor we now have gas flowing through the pipe. This is a significant £3 million investment in the area.”
As part of this continued engagement, firmus energy invited local stakeholders, including media and elected representatives to visit the site to hear first-hand of the benefits this project will bring not only to the city itself, but also to the local economy, including local job creation through the construction phase.
Local schools used the project to profile potential career opportunities and during site visits STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths) students had the opportunity to ask questions about what subject choices they should make if they want to pursue a career in engineering and construction.
Commenting on the project, Eric Cosgrove, Director of Engineering, says: “We appreciate the support and engagement from all our stakeholders throughout the process. We would like to say a special thanks to the Derry Port Authority, Thornhill College, Strathfoyle residents and Diocese of Derry for their continued help and support throughout the project.”
In the first quarter of 2019, firmus energy will invest an additional £490,000 in Derry/Londonderry to lay a further 6.5km of pipeline in the local area and pass more than 800 additional properties.
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