Work on gas terminal could create 3,000 jobs

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The Government has given the go-ahead for a pounds 250m gas terminal in North Wales which could create 3,000 construction jobs. However, the project is under threat because the Department of Trade and Industry has yet to approve a gas-fired power plant at Connah's Quay, which is the only customer for the gas, writes Mary Fagan.

The Welsh Office has approved the building of the terminal at Point of Ayr by Hamilton Oil of the US. The American company and its partners have found oil and gas off the coast of North Wales. They estimate the development could produce 50,000 barrels of oil a day and huge amounts of gas. So far, however, PowerGen, which owns Connah's Quay, is the only customer and the deal falls through if the DTI fails to approve the power plant.

As well as creating 3,000 jobs, the project could throw a lifeline to the Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead. Union officials hope the scheme will provide orders for oil platforms and pipework.

But miners at the Point of Ayr colliery, which is one of 31 threatened with closure, have attacked Hamilton's plans. The National Union of Mineworkers says that Connah's Quay could cut the market for coal by 4 million tonnes a year.

The issue underlines the Government's dilemma over the 30,000 threatened coal jobs. Almost every solution to the problem of pit closures involves the loss of jobs - or lack of job creation - in other industries.

The UK Offshore Operators Association says that up to 55,000 jobs depend on the continuation of the 'dash for gas'.