This page provides an overview of the gas sector in Northern Ireland, including the ongoing development of the gas industry, natural gas licences, gas wayleaves and guidance for gas licence holders.

Development of the Northern Ireland Gas Industry

Greater Belfast

Natural gas was first introduced to Northern Ireland via the Scotland to Northern Ireland gas pipeline in 1996. Initially, natural gas was made available to customers in Greater Belfast, the immediate surrounding area and Larne where the gas distribution network has been developed by Phoenix Natural Gas. By the end of September 2022, 244,7841 customers had been connected to natural gas in this licence area. Phoenix began works in late 2020 to make gas available to a further 10,000 domestic and commercial properties in Greater Belfast. Works are due to be completed by 2024 and about 540 new customers have already been connected.

Ten Towns

Firmus Energy obtained a licence from the Utility Regulator in March 2005 to develop the natural gas market in the "10 Towns" licence area outside Greater Belfast along the routes of the North-West gas transmission pipeline (completed November 2004) and the South-North gas transmission pipeline (completed October 2006).  

This work has involved rolling out the gas distribution network to towns and cities in the North-West and to the Ballymena, Antrim, Banbridge, Craigavon, Portadown, Armagh and Newry areas. By the end of September 2022, Firmus Energy had connected 64,323 customers in this licence area and taken natural gas to some 20 additional urban areas, including Tandragee, Warrenpoint, Bushmills, Richhill, and Moy.

Gas to the West

In February 2015, the Utility Regulator awarded exclusive gas conveyance licences to West Transmission Ltd (part of the Mutual Energy Group) and SGN Natural Gas to provide new infrastructure to connect eight further towns in the West to natural gas. The major infrastructure within this £250 million project was completed in 2019 with some £30 million contributed by the NI Executive. This has brought natural gas as a lower carbon fuel to Dungannon, Coalisland, Cookstown, Magherafelt, Omagh, Enniskillen, Derrylin and Strabane. The new gas networks in the West are expected to serve some 40,000 businesses and households, with around 2,833 consumers connected to date.

Gas to East Down

In December 2015, the Utility Regulator approved an extension to the Phoenix Natural Gas licence to provide new gas infrastructure to 13 towns and villages in East Down, including Annahilt, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Castlewellan, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Dromore, Drumaness, Dundrum, Hillsborough, Newcastle, Saintfield and The Spa.  

Gas distribution networks have now been constructed in all thirteen urban areas within the East Down project and, with the majority of the pipelines now laid, the £60m investment is making gas available to about 22,000 domestic and commercial properties. A recent extension of the gas network to Whitehead is also complete with gas now available to c.1,600 properties in the area. By September 2022, Phoenix Natural Gas had connected more than 3,400 new customers across East Down and Whitehead.

1 These figures have been taken from the Utility Regulator’s Retail Market Monitoring Quarterly Transparency Report, Quarter 3: 1 July – 30 September 2022 published on 6 December 2022.

Path to Net Zero Energy

The new energy strategy for Northern Ireland “The Path to Net Zero Energy”, which was published on 16 December 2021, recognises natural gas as a transition fuel on the pathway to net zero carbon. 

Currently, almost two out of every three homes in Northern Ireland are still heated by oil. Converting to natural gas from heating oil reduces greenhouse gas emissions by around 30 per cent with potential savings up to 50 per cent in certain conditions, such as moving from an older oil boiler to a more efficient modern gas boiler. However, the Strategy recognises that gas decarbonisation must be achieved in order to address climate change issues.

The Utility Regulator has been leading a programme of work with the department, the gas industry and the Health and Safety Executive to consider the range of issues which will facilitate injection of biomethane, a net zero carbon renewable gas, into existing gas networks. Given Northern Ireland’s strong agricultural and agri-food base, there is considerable potential for locally-produced biogas. Gas networks also offer potential for the future injection of hydrogen to help deliver decarbonisation of the heat sector.

Gas storage

There are current proposals to develop an underground storage facility below Larne Lough in East Antrim. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) awarded the project a draft marine licence and associated consents in December 2021- (DAERA - Islandmagee Gas Storage - Marine Licence).


The Department is continuing to work closely with the Utility Regulator and the natural gas industry on gas market arrangements and ensuring that energy policy and legislative requirements are delivered in Northern Ireland.

There is also significant liaison with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in London, and contact with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) in Dublin, in relation to a range of gas market issues, including security of supply.

The Department for the Economy also continues to engage with other Northern Ireland departments such as DAERA, and other stakeholders, in relation to actions in support of decarbonisation of the gas network.

Gas legislation

The overall legislative framework for the natural gas industry in Northern Ireland is provided through primary legislation in the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, which have been significantly amended as a consequence of EU legislation and, more recently, to take account of EU exit. There are also primary legislation provisions for gas under the Energy Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.   

The Department also makes subordinate legislation under powers provided within the primary legislation for gas and this has included several Gas (Designation of Pipelines) Orders, the Gas (Applications for Licences and Extensions Regulations (NI) 1996, the Gas (Supplier of Last Resort) Regulations (NI) 2009 and the Gas (Individual Standards of Performance) Regulations (NI) 2014.

All of the above and other gas-related legislation is published on Legislation GOV.UK.

Natural gas licences

Gas licences (conveyance, storage and supply of natural gas) are granted by the Utility Regulator under Article 8 of the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.

Information on the procedures governing applications for the granting of natural gas licences can be accessed at the Utility Regulator website at Gas Licences.

Gas wayleaves

The procedures governing the grant by the Department of necessary (or compulsory) wayleaves for the installation or retention of gas pipelines are contained in paragraphs 10-12 of Schedule 3 to the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.


For information about how the department processes any personal data in connection with gas necessary wayleave applications and gas tree cutting applications, see our privacy notice:

Related to Gas

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

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