E.ON UK has started the second phase of drilling at its Holford gas storage facility in Cheshire, northern England, marking an important milestone in the construction program.

Construction of the facility, which will be capable of storing around half of the UK’s average daily gas demand, has been ongoing since August 2005.

This latest phase of work will involve drilling down to 1,400 feet in preparation for creating eight underground caverns, with the first phase of storage expected to be operational in early 2009, the company said in a statement.

This is an important time for us as it shows we’re making real inroads on getting this project on stream ready to help meet the UK’s increased need for new gas storage as production from the North Sea declines, says Dr Tony Cocker, managing director of E.ON’s UK energy wholesale business.

Facilities such as this will help ensure we have enough gas available for the homes and businesses of our customers as well as the power stations that help keep the country’s lights on, he added.

Once complete, the facility will have a total capacity of around165 million cubic meters of gas and will be made up of eight separate underground storage caverns.

In May 2006 E.ON UK announced the launch of investigations into the possibility of building a new salt cavern gas storage facility in East Yorkshire.