Ireland urged to build liquid natural gas terminal to secure future supply

Engineering academy says country will need new gas sources from early 2020s when reserves in Corrib and Kinsale fields decline

A well production test at the Corrib field, 80km off Co Mayo.  “Gas production from Corrib has already started to decline, and by 2025 will supply less than 20%  of Ireland’s demand.”

A well production test at the Corrib field, 80km off Co Mayo. “Gas production from Corrib has already started to decline, and by 2025 will supply less than 20% of Ireland’s demand.”

 

Ireland needs to build a terminal for importing liquid natural gas (LNG) among other measures to guarantee future energy security, a new report warns.

Natural gas provides around 30 per cent of the country’s energy, is used to generate around half of the electricity that we use, and heats around 650,000 homes.

According to the Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE), an independent all-Ireland body, the country will need new sources of gas from the early 2020s when reserves in the Corrib and Kinsale fields, responsible for two-thirds of our needs, begin falling.

“Developing a liquid natural gas import terminal would enhance Ireland’s security of supply, and and provide access to the competitive global gas network,” the report says.

“Exploration for offshore gas should be promoted in parallel. Options of gas storage in Ireland also need to be assessed,” the academy says in a report, Natural Gas Essential for Ireland’s Future Energy Security.

By 2030, Ireland risks ending up depending completely for natural gas on Britain, whose own North Sea reserves will be depleted, the engineers’ report predicts.

“Britain’s gas imports will then come from Norway, Russia, Qatar and various countries outside Europe, ” the report says. “The gas supply route to Ireland will be longer than at present, with a greater risk of supply disruption and volatility.”

Easily transportable

LNG terminals take natural gas that has been turned to liquid in order to make it easily transportable by ship, and convert it back to gas so that it can be moved through networks of pipes in the normal way.

US multinational Hess proposed building an LNG terminal on the Shannon Estuary more than a decade ago, but pulled out following a row over charges for using pipelines with State company Bord Gáis Networks (now called Gas Networks Ireland). The group’s plan also met some local opposition.

More recently, a US company NextDecade signed a deal with the Port of Cork to develop an LNG terminal in the country’s largest natural harbour. Under the terms of a memo of understanding between the two the Cork facility would receive liquid natural gas shipped from a plant in Texas.

The IAE points out that along with Corrib, which supplies 60 per cent of our natural gas needs, the country relies on the dwindling Kinsale field for 5 per cent and imports from the North Sea via Britain for the balance.

“Gas supply from Kinsale will end by 2021,” the engineers’ report says. “Gas production from Corrib has already started to decline, and by 2025 will supply less than 20 per cent of Ireland’s demand.”

Three natural gas pipes connect Ireland with Moffat in Scotland, a hub for Britain’s natural gas network.

Generators

The IAE suggests that Ireland’s dependence on natural gas will increase as coal- and peat-burning electricity generators shut down in coming years.

Government policy is to shift to a low-carbon electricity network, which will rely more on renewable generators backed up by natural gas facilities, which produce less greenhouse gas than coal and peat.

Policy in Northern Ireland is following the same direction.In light of this the academy argues that a strategic Government plan is needed to diversify gas supplies that should take account of the fact that large energy infrastructure takes up to 10 years to build.