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Phoenix Natural Gas celebrates completion of major milestone in East Down network extension project

For the past two decades, Phoenix Natural Gas has built up a base of some 210,000 customers in its licence area of Greater Belfast, delivering a reliable and efficient heating source and establishing itself at the heart of many homes and families.

As a household brand synonymous with the Greater Belfast community, Phoenix Natural Gas has been embraced as the fuel of choice in this area and enjoys continuous growth year on year as more properties connect to the network.

Twenty years on, the company is not only focused on growing its customer base within its existing licence area, but also expanding its network to additional new areas, the most significant of which is the current East Down network extension project.

As Chief Executive Officer, Michael McKinstry, explains, “In 2015 the Northern Ireland Utility Regulator approved a network development project to connect thirteen new towns in East Down to the natural gas network. A private investment of £60m by Phoenix Natural Gas would see an additional 28,000 properties connected in Annahilt, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Castlewellan, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Dromore, Drumaness, Dundrum, Hillsborough, Newcastle, Saintfield and Spa.”

“This was a significant investment in the County Down area. Since the introduction of natural gas to Northern Ireland in 1996, the Greater Belfast area has benefitted from an improved utility infrastructure and a modern, more efficient and environmentally friendly heating source. Now, through this network extension project, homes and businesses in the East Down area will be able to enjoy the same benefits.”

“Of course, before we could connect new customers we first had to build the East Down network – a challenging task which sees a total of 350km of pipeline constructed through thirteen busy areas, each with unique characteristics to consider.”

“We are very pleased to have completed construction of over 90km of large diameter pipework to bring natural gas to all 13 areas nine months ahead of schedule, allowing us to concentrate now on the full roll out of natural gas to these areas.”

 “Phoenix Natural Gas is gas distribution network development company at heart and we were excited to have the opportunity to extend the gas network to County Down. Using state of the art technology, our construction teams have not only embraced the challenge, but we have exceeded expectations on this project.”

 “This is a fantastic achievement for us given the engineering challenges faced along the way which included carrying out a number of underwater pipeline crossings at the River Lagan and navigating town-specific challenges. In addition, we faced a number of local challenges in terms of traffic management and considering the needs of the local communities in which we were working. Stakeholder engagement was pivotal in helping ensure a smooth works programme.

“When introducing our brand in a new area to a new audience, Phoenix recognises the importance of embedding ourselves into the local community, supporting local initiatives and adding value to the community we serve as part of our established corporate social responsibility programme.”

“Although a significant milestone has been reached in this project, Phoenix will continue to have a presence in the East Down area over the next number of years, working to make natural gas available to properties right across this area. Whilst carrying out this activity we continue to recognise the importance of supporting our new licence area through our CSR programme and in making connections to the network.”

“For us, connecting with the community, both from a commercial and CSR perspective, will continue to be a key focus.”