Modifications to the turbine hall at Kilroot Power Station have been given the go-ahead by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee.
An application for an extension, heat recovery steam generator and two gas flue stacks was approved at a meeting of the committee on Thursday.
The planned works are part of the ongoing process to convert the plant outside Carrickfergus from coal/oil to gas generation. The current system is scheduled to shut down on September 30.
Senior planning officer Denise Kerr told members:
“The purpose of the current application is to provide different technical design options. As it relates to the same turbine hall, only one of the configurations, either this one or the previous approval, will be constructed.”
Permission was granted by the committee in June for an extension to a turbine hall to “secure Northern Ireland’s electricity supply”.
“The current site is located within Kilroot Power Station It is adjacent to the existing turbine hall and the NIE sub-station,” the officer said.
“The extension is proposed to accommodate a replacement gas generator for one of the existing coal-fire generators within the turbine hall. A second coal-fired generator will be re-purposed and designed to work with the new heat recovery steam generator to re-use the hot exhaust gases from the new gas turbine.
“The new 68-metre gas turbine stack will be located between the proposed extension and new steam generator. The stack for the steam generator is higher at 90 metres.”
She noted the original chimney stack within the power station is 200 metres high. She indicated there were no objections from either Belfast International Airport or George Best Belfast City Airport. Two letters of objection were received from other parties.
“We consider the proposed development provides essential electricity generating infrastructure for Northern Ireland and it is associated with the conversion from oil-fired and coal-fired generation to gas. It is also critical to ensure security of supply.”
Kieran Tubridy, commercial director EPUKI, reiterated the company’s commitment to “taking forward significant investment” at Kilroot Power Station and Ballylumford Power Station in Islandmagee which represents £600m overall at Kilroot.
Mr Tubridy said Kilroot is set to become one of the largest conventional generation sites on the island of Ireland.
He explained the company is currently completing construction of a gas pipeline to the site as well as two gas turbines, which he said, will provide “much-needed back-up generation to the Northern Ireland grid once operational”.
“These units will provide much-needed back-up generation in Northern Ireland. The proposed development is to facilitate ongoing generation at Kilroot,” he stated.
“It will be one of the most efficient combined cycle plants in Europe.”
Mr Tubridy noted it would represent a “significant milestone” in EPI’s transition from coal at Kilroot and a further £350m investment.
He also said the development will lead to the creation of 40 jobs at Kilroot and will generate “significant” rates for the council area and “supply chain opportunities”.
“It is vital we receive approval to unlock investment to enable us to make key financial decisions and move forward to ensure Northern Ireland has security of electricity supply in the coming years as it progresses towards net zero in 2050.”
Committee chair Bannside DUP Alderman Tom Gordon was told the 40 new posts would be permanent and there would be additional contract work.
Knockagh Alliance Councillor Aaron Skinner proposed to accept the recommendation to approve the application, seconded by Bannside Ulster Unionist Cllr Jackson Minford.
It was approved unanimously following a vote.