WORK on the second phase of a controversial Mid Cheshire gas storage plant is under way - and it's due to be up and running in 2009.
E.ON UK has begun the second phase of drilling at its Drakelow Lane, Byley, gas storage facility.
Work at the facility, which will eventually comprise eight caverns to store North Sea gas, has been ongoing since August, with most of the major civil engineering nearing completion.
The drilling process is expected to continue for the next year, during which time the infrastructure for bringing water to site and piping brine away will also be carried out.
Project manager Mike Cooper said: 'This is an exciting time for the team as it shows we're making real inroads on bringing this important project on stream in time to help the UK store more gas as demand rises and North Sea production declines.
'This stage involves drilling down to about 1,400ft and, once we've got down to that level, we'll be putting in steel casing that will maintain the shape of the wells in preparation for the creation of the caverns themselves.'
He said the caverns will be connected via a 2km gas pipeline to a gas compressor station located nearby which will then be connected to the national transmission system via a 4km pipeline.
Once complete, the facility will have a total capacity of 165 cubic metres and will be made up of eight caverns - each of which will be able to store about the same amount of gas as 50 gasometers.
The controversial project was given the go-ahead by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott last year, citing national need for gas storage despite the Government's own inspectors rejecting the scheme.
The first phase of storage is expected to be operational early in 2009, with project completion expected in 2010.