SGN Natural Gas has announced the appointment of its new Director, David Butler to lead the huge energy infrastructure project bringing natural gas to the major towns in the western area of Northern Ireland. He takes up the key role following the departure of Danny O’Malley who has moved to a new position in SGN as Group Head of Transmission based in Scotland.
David Butler has a track record of designing and building gas networks in Northern Ireland. As Head of Engineering with SGN Natural Gas since 2015, he led the main construction phase of one of the most significant infrastructural projects ever undertaken in the province with the potential to meet the energy needs of up to 40,000 homes and businesses across Counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry / Londonderry over the next 40 years.
Prior to joining SGN Natural Gas – the newest distribution network operator in the Northern Ireland gas market - David accumulated almost 20 years’ experience in various senior roles at Phoenix Natural Gas, the major network serving customers in the Greater Belfast area.
Commenting on his current appointment as Director of SGN Natural Gas, the father-of-two said he was very excited to take up his new position and embrace the challenges and responsibilities of the role. “It is also an honour to be in this role having worked on the project since the very start and to have seen the significant milestones achieved to date.”
A native of Nenagh in Co. Tipperary, David’s studies took him to Belfast in the 1990s where he gained a Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Science (Engineering Computation) from Queen’s University. He recalled: “I wanted to do chemical engineering and there were really two places to do that, UCD and Queen’s and my preference was for Queen’s.”
His early career was as a design engineer working with the project team developing the new gas network for Phoenix Natural Gas which was launched in Belfast in 1996. He went on to manage its control room before moving into Asset Management and then as Engineering Policy Manager.
An exciting new opportunity arose to join SGN Natural Gas as Head of Engineering, developing brand new network infrastructure. This represents an ultimate investment of over £250million focused on offering an alternative, more efficient energy choice to consumers in the western area and helping to tackle fuel poverty. The network has now reached all the target towns, paving the way for consumers to switch from their existing energy supply to mains natural gas for the first time.
David explained: “This was a complex engineering project involving 78km High Pressure pipeline delivered collaboratively with Mutual Energy and the construction of 142km Intermediate Pressure and almost 200km of Distribution gas mains by SGN Natural Gas. A team of over 500 individuals, specialising in their respective fields, utilising a range of traditional open-cut and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) operations was required to complete the project, including over 50 river and stream crossings. Natural Gas is now available for over 12,000 properties to connect with more becoming available on a weekly basis.”
“The project contains innovative network design and material selections which will help minimise costs in what is a very challenging environment. Importantly, this project ensures there is now a clear pathway to a fully decarbonised, hydrogen-ready future for Northern Ireland. The network can ultimately play a vital role in decarbonisation, removing millions of tonnes of CO2 from the west of Northern Ireland where oil/solid fuel use is prevalent.”
“We will connect approximately 40,000 homes and businesses, significantly enhancing the home experience for residents and making businesses more competitive globally. The project involves extensive and multi-faceted stakeholder engagement together with key collaborative partnerships, working with the other gas operators in Northern Ireland as we all plan for a new energy future. SGN Natural Gas is also looking forward to ongoing positive community engagement in achieving future milestones for this huge investment in new gas infrastructure which will ultimately benefit consumers.”
The former Chair of the Irish section of gas industry professional body IGEM, thanked his predecessor, Danny O’Malley, for his support and guidance during his leadership over the past five years. He also paid tribute to the “fantastic team” at SGN Natural Gas, adding: “I am very fortunate to work with so many experienced and committed colleagues. Potential customers in our network area now have access to an affordable and more convenient form of energy, which is much cleaner than the other traditional fossil fuels typically in use today. Our participation in the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Project (NISEP) scheme has ensured that lower income households benefit from funding to help convert their homes from oil and solid fuel to natural gas. Given that fuel poverty is higher in the western area than in other parts of Northern Ireland, we will continue to lobby for further support for residents within our network area on an ongoing basis.”
“We are also ensuring that we continue to communicate our key messaging to domestic customers in new and innovative ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, this includes offering 1-1 virtual appointments for householders to discuss both the connection benefits and the financial incentives we have available to help with their installation process, with one of the SGN Natural Gas domestic sales representatives assigned to their town. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the people in all of the towns who have been so welcoming and supportive while we continue to develop the network in their area.”
The new SGN Natural Gas Director is assured to be busier than ever in his new role, however when he gets some time to ‘switch off’ he is a keen sportsman with a passion for outdoor activity including adventure races – he has completed a number of these challenges over the past 10 years - no mean feat when they involve a series of long runs, kayaking and mountain biking.
David has also done a number of half marathons and has recently joined a local triathlon club -having completed one so far. He coaches at his local sports club in Glenavy at the weekend. He and his wife Tracey, who works as a teacher, have two teenage children and the family live in Co. Antrim.