Proposals for a net-zero carbon emissions hub in the Cork region and a "critical infrastructure" project in the Corrib gas field off Co Mayo will be submitted to the Government on Monday by the Irish Offshore Operators' Association (IOOA).
The two technical proposals outlined in the submission – made as part of the Government’s consultation process on the Climate Action Plan 2021 – could “play a major role” in lowering emissions and decarbonising the State, while ensuring energy security, the IOOA suggested.
The association, which said its submission was "grounded in practical and pragmatic realism", represents licence holders at the Barryroe oil and gas field off Co Cork, Corrib operators Vermilion and Norwegian energy company Equinor, which is the ESB's partner on the planned Moneypoint wind farm project off Co Clare.
Its proposed Cork Net-Zero Emissions Hub envisages the use of carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration (CCUS) technology, as well as offshore wind energy and hydrogen production, to bring the regional economy to the point of net-zero emissions.
This would involve using the infrastructure at the Kinsale gas field combined with the undeveloped Barryroe oil and gas field, which it said could "make a significant contribution to Ireland's and Cork's continuing requirements for petroleum during the transition towards low and zero carbon emissions".
The CCUS approach “offers significant potential” as a technologically proven methodology for safely storing captured CO2 emissions and can help reduce emissions in sectors where decarbonisation is difficult, according to the IOOA.
It said the CO2 emissions from the oil and gas usage in the industrial base in the Cork region have the potential to be captured and safely sequestered in the reservoir rocks of the nearby depleted offshore Kinsale Head gas field, which is currently being decommissioned.
A "blue" hydrogen industry – using natural gas as a feedstock – could also be developed with CO2 captured and sequestered in the offshore reservoirs, while the Celtic Sea region off Cork has the potential for the development of offshore wind generation, it added, citing similar UK initiatives such as the Net Zero Teesside and Zero Carbon Humber projects.
Under the IOOA’s second proposal for a Corrib Critical Infrastructure Hub, unexplored gas prospects in the licensed blocks near Corrib – which is past peak production – would potentially be linked to the Corrib production system and become a secure source of natural gas to supplement or replace the Corrib field, displacing foreign imports.
"Our industry vision for Ireland's decarbonisation transition is for a clear, realistic, costed and fully integrated plan, based on international experience and supported by robust evidence," said IOOA chairman Alan Linn, who is chief executive of Barryroe licence holders Providence Resources.
"Without further indigenous gas discoveries, Ireland will be entirely reliant on imported gas. Unless this comes through LNG [liquefied natural gas] imports, it will come from mainland Europe and further afield, and will transit through the UK to the interconnectors at Moffatt in Scotland. "
In light of UK and European Union reliance on gas imports, the State may become vulnerable to interruptions in gas supply unless there is an indigenous replacement for the Corrib gas field that is now in decline, Mr Linn warned.
“We believe that Ireland has the capacity to maintain a level of energy sovereignty by using its own resources. Ireland can reduce our imports and our emissions while increasing investment and jobs,” he said.
“This will only be achieved if politicians are willing to be honest about Ireland’s energy security limitations and are prepared to realise the full potential of Ireland’s offshore resources”.
Net-zero emissions does not mean zero emissions. It refers to a process of cutting absolute emissions across a sector to the lowest possible level then taking steps to “offset” the rest.