New Irish Govt to End Gas Exploration
Ireland's new coalition government has pledged to stop issuing licences for gas development, following a similar move to end the search for oil off the country's coast.
The government was formed on June 27 between the country's two main political parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, as well as the Green Party, following months of talks after a general election in February. In its "Programme for Government" policy paper, the coalition said it would seek to "harness the natural resources to meet our needs in this country, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs."
The issue of new gas exploration and production licences will be ended. Back in September Ireland's previous Fine Gael-led government took the same step for oil licences, saying the fossil fuel was incompatible" with the country's low-carbon future. But it said at the time that exploration for gas would continue as it is a "transition fuel."
Ireland has been developing offshore gas for decades, with Corrib and several other large deposits covering 60% of domestic demand. By ending exploration for new reserves to replace Corrib, which is in decline, the industry argues that Ireland will simply increase its reliance on gas imports. Because of its transport over long distances, and other factors, using imported gas will create more carbon emissions than domestic supply.
"Not everything in this document is good for the environment, measures such as banning gas exploration licences and virtue signalling gestures which while appealing to the Green voter, will ironically increase our emissions," Mandy Johnston, CEO of the Irish Offshore Operators' Association (IOOA) has said, commenting on the policy paper. "In addition the measure will deny the west coast of Ireland significant investment from this industry. We are the only country in the world as reliant on energy imports to introduce a ban like this."
Johnston went on to say that banning exploration would "force our future generations to rely solely on imported fuel. Imported fuels have a greater impact on the climate due to transportation related emissions. Substituting such imports with indigenous supplies can make significant emissions reductions."
The government has also taken aim at the new LNG import projects under development in Ireland. The long-delayed 5bn m3/yr Shannon LNG terminal, being developed by US-based New Fortress Energy, will be withdrawn from the EU's 2021 list of infrastructure projects of common interest (PCIs). PCIs gain access to EU grants.
"We do not support the importation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statement to establish that approach," the government said. "As Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality, we do not believe that it makes sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas."
Another project in the pipeline is the 4bn m3/yr Inisfree floating LNG import facility in the south of Ireland, planned by US LNG developer NextDecade, which would receive LNG from the firm's Rio Grande LNG export terminal. London-listed Predator Oil & Gas recently proposed building an LNG import terminal in Ireland. But it was careful to note that the terminal would not get its gas from shale fracking projects, without saying what the origin would be.
One company potentially affected by the gas exploration ban is Europa Oil & Gas, which is looking to develop gas prospects near Corrib. It already has licences for the sites, but the government's position may make it harder for the explorer to attract a farm-in partner.