New plans to build a €650 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Shannon estuary are to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála despite a move by the Government last month to prevent Ireland from importing fracked gas.
A policy statement, drawn up by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, said "it would not be appropriate to permit or proceed with development of any LNG terminals in Ireland, including the Shannon LNG project".
He said this position was pending a review of the security of energy supply for Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems.
Planning authorities, when assessing any planning application, must have regard to relevant Government policy. However, a legal ban on the importation of fracked gas cannot be put in place at this time as it would require changes to international rules.
Fracking involves drilling down into the earth and directing a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the rock to release gas, which then flows to the head of a well.
Shannon LNG, a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, the New York-based global energy infrastructure company, had a previous application for the development at its Shannon Technology and Energy Park quashed by the High Court last year.
It said on Tuesday it would now reapply to An Bord Pleanála for permission for the first phase of the development at the 600 acre site between Ballylongford and Tarbert in Co Kerry.
The group described the development as a “major energy infrastructure project”, which would comprise a 600MW power plant and an LNG terminal.
However, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), who succeeded in striking down Shannon LNG’s original planning permission in September last year, said they couldn’t understand how the board could allow an application to proceed in June when the Government policy decision in May had made it clear that no such projects could ‘proceed’ until the review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems was completed.
“If permitting an applicant to apply for a €500 million fossil fuel terminal is not ‘proceeding’ then I don’t know what is,” FIE Director Tony Lowes said.
Shannon LNG said the terminal would import LNG, which is natural gas that has been cooled to approximately -160 degrees to reduce its volume and facilitate shipping.
A floating storage and regasification unit would be moored at a jetty to receive and store the LNG. The Terminal would then regasify the LNG and send the gas to the power plant and to the national gas grid.
Sam Abdalla, vice president of project development at New Fortress Energy, said the project would be "transformative" for the region.
“This first phase of development – the €650 million power plant and terminal – will create 270 construction jobs over a three-year construction period with 70 long-term jobs, once operational,” he said.
“The development would occupy 100 acres of the 600 acre site and the site masterplan anticipates a follow-on development for a major data centre campus with up to eight data halls which would create up to 400 additional long-term jobs.
“The proposed development will provide a major energy infrastructure asset that addresses Ireland’s looming shortfall in stable electricity generation and overcomes the issue of energy isolation.
“By doing so it will support the transition to 70 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2030. The power plant and terminal are future-proofed with the ability to transition to hydrogen gas once the technology and public policy are fully developed.
“The Shannon Technology and Energy Park proposed development is privately funded and Government or EU funding is not being sought.”