Tánaiste Leo Varadkar met the developer of the Shannon liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Kerry earlier this summer.
The State backed out of plans to support the plant in the 2020 programme for government, but the developer lodged a planning application and still enjoys the support of some in Fine Gael — and is firmly opposed by their coalition partners in the Green Party.
A spokesman for the Department of Enterprise confirmed Mr Varadkar met New Fortress Energy in June. Mr Varadkar’s spokesman has previously said he was interested in whether the terminal could be adapted for green hydrogen if built.
The Government is facing the risk of renewed internal tensions over the importation of LNG. Sean Kelly, Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, told The Irish Times that European countries were building LNG terminals in light of increased fears over disruption to Russian gas supplies this winter.
“We have a chance to build one for nothing, and we’re rejecting it, and it makes no sense whatsoever.”
The programme for government states it does not “make sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas”.
“You can source it from anywhere around the world, so they don’t have to get it from a fracked source,” Mr Kelly said, arguing that importing non-fracked LNG would be in keeping with the programme for government commitments, and the terminal could later be converted to handling hydrogen.
No legal ban
Neasa Hourigan, a Green Party TD who is without the whip, said the construction of LNG infrastructure “locks us into the worst kind of highly polluting fossil fuel energy possible for generations as the world around us burns due to climate change”.
She said there was no independently verifiable way to import gas that is not fracked into Ireland but she expected the fossil fuel industry and those working with them “to continue to attempt to sidestep this Government’s climate commitments at every turn”.
The Government adopted a policy statement in opposition to importing fracked gas in May 2021, but decided against a legal ban in light of EU treaties and laws governing the internal energy market. This is pending a review of Ireland’s energy security of supply issue, to be completed later this year. It will consider risks to gas and electricity supplies and is considering a range of measures, including the need for additional capacity to import energy.
David Stanton, Fine Gael TD for Cork East, reiterated his support for repurposing infrastructure associated with the Kinsale gas pipeline for potential use importing LNG in a crisis.
He said he had been approached by Mag Mell Energy, which works on floating storage and regasification projects in Irish waters and which argued for the retention of the Kinsale pipeline. It is owned by Predator Oil & Gas, which has also pursued projects in Ireland.
Pa Daly, Sinn Féin TD for Kerry, said his preference was for jobs to come on-stream at Tarbert. “While fundamentally I’m opposed to using fracked gas, which has ruined another community somewhere in the world, obviously something should be done with the land bank,” he said, adding he “wouldn’t have as much a problem” with importing unfracked LNG if it were possible. Sinn Féin policy is against new fossil fuel infrastructure, and its spokeswoman on climate justice, Lynn Boylan, has said it doesn’t make sense to invest in LNG import terminals.