State utility Ervia’s plans to trap and store greenhouse gas before it hits the atmosphere could get backing from a €30 billion European Union fund.
Ervia, which owns Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland, has been weighing the possibility of capturing carbon dioxide and other emissions from electricity generators and storing them in the near-disused Kinsale natural gas field.
The State company confirmed yesterday that the European Commission has included the plan on its "projects of common interest" list, allowing to apply for backing from a €30 billion fund operated by Brussels.
Dubbed the Cork Carbon Capture and Storage project, Ervia’s plan involves using technology that the company says is proven to capture greenhouse gas, which causes climate change, and turn it into liquid so it can be transported and stored deep underground to prevent it reaching the atmosphere.
The State company intends storing the carbon in the Kinsale field, off the south coast, whose natural gas reserves are due to run out this year.
It maintains that as the old reservoir in the Celtic Sea is connected to the country's natural gas network, this should make it more "cost effective" to use the Kinsale field.
Earlier this year, Ervia chairman Tony Keohane, said that the State company had been studying the feasibility of capturing greenhouse gas from power plants and storing it in the empty gas reservoir.
As it qualifies as a project of common interest, Ervia can ask Brussels for cash to pay for advanced studies of the project’s feasibility. It is not known how much the EU will contribute to the plan.
One of Ervia's subsidiaries, Gas Networks Ireland, previously received funding from the EU programme for a gas pipeline connecting this country with Scotland.
Ervia is partner in two other projects granted the same status by Brussels. One is Northern Lights, a plan by Norwegian energy supplier Equinor to offer carbon transport and storage around Europe.
Equinor recently signed a deal with another State-owned group, the ESB, to find and develop suitable wind farm sites around the Republic's coast.
Ervia’s second partnership is Athos, a plan to transport carbon dioxide from Ireland and Europe and store it in Dutch territorial waters in the North Sea.
Projects of common interest are plans that Brussels believes will help further integrate the EU’s energy supply networks.
Proposals by national electricity grid manager EirGrid and its French equivalent, RTE, to lay a power line between the Republic’s south coast and Brittany qualify for EU cash under the same heading.
Cathal Marley, Ervia's interim chief executive, said the EU's recognition of the State company's carbon capture plan was a "key step forward" in developing the technology's potential.