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07 Oct 2022

‘Floating’ LNG terminal among options to secure Ireland’s energy supply

‘Floating’ LNG terminal among options to secure Ireland’s energy supply

A “floating”  liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that would serve as a back-up facility is among the options listed to secure Ireland’s energy supply into the future.

A report compiled by consultancy firm CEPA and published on Monday has advised against a fixed or commercial LNG terminal.

The technical report looks at ways to secure Ireland’s energy supply between now and 2030.

It looks at the possible risks to Ireland’s energy supply, lists the policy mitigation options and analyses the merits of those options.

The report longlists a number of policy options that will now go out for public consultation until October 28, with a policy direction expected to be decided before the end of the year.

Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, said he was open to either having an onshore gas storage facility, or a “floating” LNG terminal as a back-up facility, which were among the options long-listed in the report.

“I believe particularly the onshore facility has a number of key advantages,” the Green Party leader said on RTE Radio.

“Firstly, we could draw down the gas from the existing network and it would give us a real strategic flexibility and capability.

“Secondly, it will be possible for it to be future-proofed, so that we do know we’re going to need these sort of investment facilities, these sort of storage facilities into the future, when we will be developing our own hydrogen gas.

“And so we can design it and develop it in a way that that is a strategic safety reserve which gives us flexibility into the future.”

Although the report recommends an LNG terminal as a floating, back-up facility, it recommends against three other LNG terminal possibilities.

Of a commercial, fixed LNG terminal – such as the Shannon LNG project that has been proposed – it said that “commercial operation is likely to result in the importation of fracked gas to Ireland”.

It also notes that this option would not necessarily ensure security of supply for Ireland: “As storage stocks would be driven by market fundamentals, there would be no guarantee that stored gas volumes would be sufficient to cover a security-of-supply shock.”

The report longlists several other policy options, including a 450MW biomass plant; an additional electricity interconnector with France; and a 360MW pumped hydro storage capacity, which could “alleviate relatively small but sustained electricity supply shocks”.

The Government has already aimed to develop 5GW of offshore wind by 2030, while further electricity interconnectors with Great Britain and France are expected to come on stream in the coming years.

An analysis of the shocks that could pose a threat to security of supply included weather conditions, technical failures, and geopolitical disruptions such as Russia cutting off gas supplies to Europe.

It also said that electricity demand in Ireland is expected to increase “substantially” over the next decade, particularly due to the expansion of data centres.

The report says: “This will mainly be driven by the expansion of large energy users, particularly data centres, in addition to demand growth resulting from the electrification of heat and transport.”

In one of the five shock scenarios modelled as part of the report, in the event of gas imports from Britain being unavailable for seven days, gas prices would increase “significantly” and electricity prices would increase “materially”.

But if gas imports from Britain were to be interrupted for 30 days, the report said Ireland would see “significant wholesale electricity and gas price rises in the presence of unserved demand”.

Ireland is increasingly reliant on importing natural gas from the UK to boost its supplies.

In 2019, 53% of Ireland’s natural gas use was imported from the UK, but it currently relies on Britain for 70% of its gas supplies, with the remaining 30% coming from the Corrib gas field.

By the mid-2020s, Ireland is expected to import more than 80% of its gas from Britain and more than 90% by 2030.

The report did not review expected tight margins in electricity supply in the short-term.

These are being addressed by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, with the support of Eirgrid; the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications; and industry.

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