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Introducing liquefied natural gas (LNG) into the Irish system could result in the use of fracked gas which would be a “highly retrograde step”, one of the State’s leading experts on energy systems has said.

Professor Barry McMullin of the Faculty of Engineering and Computing Dublin City University will tell an Oireachtas Committee on Tuesday that although the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused big disruptions in natural gas supplies, it would be unwise for Ireland to consider storing LNG on a commercial basis.

In his opening statement prepared for the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment and Climate, Prof McMullin has said deploying LNG structure in Ireland would create more demand for gas at a time when it is supposed to be running down and could also result in Ireland using fracked natural gas.

“Deployment of LNG infrastructure in Ireland on any commercial basis would necessarily create perverse incentives to increase rather than reduce overall natural gas consumption,” he said in his statement. “It would further risk exposing Ireland to direct importation of fracked natural gas, particularly but not exclusively from the US.


“The emissions profile and wider environmental impacts of fracked natural gas are substantially higher than for ‘conventional’ natural gas: introducing it into the Irish system would therefore be a highly retrograde step.”

Plans for a commercial LNG terminal on the Shannon Estuary has caused tension between Government parties. The proposal has won backing from Fine Gael politicians while it has been strongly opposed by the Green Party.

There seemed to be a slight shift in the party’s opposition earlier this year when party leader Eamon Ryan said Ireland might require some gas storage facility as an emergency backstop. However, he said that such a facility would use natural gas and would not be commercial. He later clarified his stance by saying that commercial LNG storage would not be in keeping with Ireland’s climate change laws.

LNG occurs when natural gas is cooled to a very low temperature of -162 degrees Celsius and is made into liquid, which can then be transported over long distances.

Prof McMullin will tell the committee, chaired by Brian Leddin, that the liquefaction process is very energy intensive, and the energy required to keep the very low temperatures needed contributes to much higher emissions.

At present, natural gas in Ireland is sourced from the Corrib field, and from two interconnectors to the UK. The natural gas comes from gasfields in the UK and Norway. The war in Ukraine has led some countries in the EU to develop additional facilities for storing LNG.

Prof McMullin will say that Ireland’s gas comes from the UK and Norway and the State is not directly exposed to disruption of supplies from Russia.

He has also noted that European countries may have increased LNG capacity too much, exceeding the demand that may be likely in 2030.

“I do not want to downplay in any way the ongoing genuine and serious risks to Irish energy supply. However, these risks arise directly from having developed an energy system that is chronically reliant on imported fossil fuels. The solution to that cannot plausibly be by way of doubling down on such a failed strategy. Further, while the short term risks of disruption to energy supplies are real and significant, on any medium or long term basis they are entirely dwarfed by the risks of catastrophic climate disruption,” he said.

Gregory Molnar of the International Energy Agency will tell the Committee that the short-term gas supply outlook remains tight and the global gas balance is subject to an unusually wide range of uncertainties.

In a statement prepared for the committee he said there has been a strong increase in LNG production capacity in Europe. However he says that if the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario is met, there will be no need for additional investment in new LNG liquefaction capacity and, in some cases, even projects that are already under construction will not be needed any more.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times