There was no shortage of new energy in Strabane today when the first domestic consumer was connected to natural gas as part of the multi-million-pound Gas to the West project.
A special celebration was hosted by SGN Natural Gas to mark the occasion as local resident Justin Arkinson of Derry Road became the first household to benefit from the £250m infrastructure investment which will bring natural gas to eight main towns in Counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Maoliosa McHugh, was on hand for the official ‘switch-on’ and warmly welcomed the announcement that natural gas is now available in the Strabane town area.
Cllr. McHugh said: “Gas to the West is a highly significant new infrastructure development for the western region and I am delighted that Strabane is the first provincial town to be connected to mains gas. The availability of natural gas will bring many positive benefits for both business and domestic consumers and the wider local economy.”
Danny O’Malley, Director of SGN Natural Gas, said the connection of the first domestic consumer in Strabane was an important milestone for all those involved in making Gas to the West a reality. “I would like to pay tribute to the ongoing commitment and hard work of our dedicated project team, key partners and stakeholders in reaching this exciting stage of the project.
“Natural gas is now flowing for customers in Strabane, with the other seven towns in the west scheduled to follow suit in due course.”
Also welcoming the first domestic connection to the newly extended gas network, Jenny Pyper, Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator, said: “This is another vote of confidence in the natural gas industry in Northern Ireland and a welcome boost for our infrastructure, bringing greater energy choice for consumers.”
Referring to the benefits of natural gas as “an affordable, cleaner and convenient form of energy”, the Utility Regulator said: “We also look forward to continued progress with the remainder of the construction phase underway to extend the network so that natural gas will be available to many more customers in the near future as part of the Gas to the West project.”
The Strabane householder making local history this week, Mr Arkinson, said the family were looking forward to enjoying the many benefits of using natural gas for their home heating and other utility requirements after making the decision to opt for mains gas.
He said: “We were in the process of setting up oil heating for our new home when we heard that natural gas would be available in Strabane, so the timing was perfect for us. We’re delighted to be the first domestic consumer connected to the new gas network in the town and looking forward to the convenience it offers as well as saving on our energy bills and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which is an added bonus.”
LacPatrick Dairies Ltd at Artigarvan in Strabane, was the first business customer to be connected to natural gas earlier this year.
Gas to the West is scheduled to deliver gas mains, services and meters to around 40,000 customers in Coalisland, Cookstown, Derrylin, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Magherafelt, Omagh and Strabane over the next 40 years.