State company Bord Gáis Networks is to investigate whether there is a need to invest €200 million in re-engineering its interconnectors with Britain so they can be used to export natural gas from Ireland.
The company, part of the Bord Gáis group, owns and operates two pipelines connecting Ireland with Britain that are used to import over 90 per cent of the natural gas used here.
Neither of the lines, built at a total cost of €600 million, can be used to export gas from here, as when they were built in 1993 and 2003, the Government was focused on securing supplies to meet high projected demand. It would require an investment of €200 million to allow gas to flow from Ireland.
An Bord Gáis and National Grid, which operates the British gas network, plan to carry out an assessment this summer to establish if there is a demand for this. A previous consultation in 2011 concluded that it was not needed.
According to a spokesman for Bord Gáis Networks, its British counterpart did not believe it would be needed as the country had its own gas reserves in the North Sea, as well as a number of pipelines connecting it with supply points in Europe.
The spokesman said it would not be possible to speculate on the outcome of this year’s assessment. “If there is demand for it, the bottom line is that is going to cost €200 million and that will have to be paid for.”
British gas supplies ran dangerously low towards the end of March as a result of the longer than usual winter, sparking fears a shortage was imminent.
At one point, prices spiked to £1.50 a unit – about three times the norm – in London following a brief interruption to supplies caused by technical problems.
A decision would have ramifications for a number of natural gas projects. The Shell-operated Corrib field, which holds enough of the fuel to supply Irish needs for up to 15 years, is due to come on stream late next year or in early 2015.
Cheap US imports
US multinational Hess is planning to build a liquid natural gas storage facility at Shannon, which would open the Irish market up to cheap imports from America.
Over the longer term, exploration company Providence, believes there are large quantities of natural gas in the Barryroe licence area off the south coast, which is close to pipelines from the original Kinsale field.