Government decision on Shannon LNG plant not straightforward

Planned €650m Shannon LNG terminal will be needed as State’s gas resources dwindle

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said in May it would not be appropriate to permit any LNG plant in the Republic. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said in May it would not be appropriate to permit any LNG plant in the Republic. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Shannon LNG’s plans for a €650 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, 600-megawatt electricity plant and battery storage at Ballylongford, Co Kerry will meet opposition on several fronts.

Local and environmental groups already oppose the LNG terminal, while the add-on proposal for up to eight data centres, the latest whipping boys in the energy policy debate, is also likely to draw criticism.

An Bord Pleanála will assess the proposals under strategic infrastructure legislation. Parties cannot appeal these decisions, but they can get the High Court to review them should they believe there are grounds for this. So there is a risk that this proposal could end up being litigated, as did Shannon LNG’s previous plans for the site.

One possible opponent of LNG is the Government. Last May, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said it would not be appropriate to permit any LNG plant in the Republic, including Shannon, pending the outcome of an energy security review which his department will complete next year.

His main concern is that an LNG plant could potentially process gas obtained by fracking, a drilling method involving fracturing rock, which environmentalists oppose.

Conventional drilling

However, most of the gas used to supply such facilities actually comes from conventional drilling, although fracking does account for some of it. Shannon LNG has indicated that the Irish terminal will only accept shipments that are not fracked.

The pros of Shannon LNG’s plans get far less coverage that the cons. Ireland as a whole will continue to need natural gas well into the future, but its own supply, the Corrib Field, will run out at some point in the next decade, leaving us depending on a pipeline running from Scotland.

While 70 per cent of our electricity should come from renewable sources by then, we will still need gas to generate the other 30 per cent. Also, that 30 per cent will itself be proportionately bigger, as electricity demand here is rising rapidly.

A State whose electricity demand is growing, but which has dwindling natural gas resources to meet that need, is going to have to consider alternatives, including building an LNG plant.

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