Fracked US LNG Torpedoes Ireland‘s Dreams of A Fossil-free Future

Food & Water Europe and others travel to Galway, Ennis, Cork & Dublin to talk with locals and activists about how we can transition to renewables and adapt to change and develop resilience, locally and globally.

by Andy Gheorghiu

The Green Island is on a positive path towards a fossil-free future. However, things are far from perfect and the country might even miss the 2020 climate targets, which could force Ireland to pay fines of up to €600m.

But despite the hard economic struggles that the small and proud nation had to navigate through, Ireland made some real progress towards a sustainable, clean energy future.

Green Island banned onshore fracking and wants to divest from fossil fuels

In the Summer of 2017, the Ireland banned onshore fracking, enacting the best formulated fracking ban legislation in Europe. It doesn’t include “offshore” fracking, but Irish activists won’t stop until offshore fracking is also banned.

Previously, in January 2017, the Irish Parliament (Dàil) had voted in favour of divesting coal, oil and gas holdings from the €8 billion Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill is set to go to report stage ahead of the Dáil’s 2018 summer recess.

In April 2018, on Earth Day, a group of several Catholic institutions (including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery and Sisters of Mercy, from the Northern Province in Ireland) announced a partial divestment from the fossil fuel industry – as did the Church of Ireland in May 2018. These developments should also encourage the Catholic Church of Ireland to do something against the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the country.

The Climate Emergency Bill is also currently before the second parliamentary stage and is expected to enter the Committee State soon. And – although the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland says that the country’s energy use is not declining fast enough – renewable electricity accounted for at least 27 percent of the total energy usage in 2016, showing the potential in development.

But it’s exactly now, at the most decisive moment for Ireland’s transition into a post-fossil fuel future, an absurd debate about the realisation of two unneeded LNG import terminals at Shannon & Cork returns. At the moment discussions are being kept “behind the scenes” but we’ve started to make some noise about it.

Planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Ireland can create fossil lock-in for Green Island

The Shannon LNG Terminal is proposed to have a final maximum capacity of at least 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. This would equal the current proposed annual flow capacity of European Union’s most ambitious gas project, the Southern Gas Corridor, and supply Ireland’s fossil gas needs twice over.

The Cork LNG Terminal is proposed to have an annual import capacity of up to approximately 4 bcm of gas.

Both terminals would import fracked hydrocarbons from the United States and could be used for passthrough to the EU – instead of simply fulfilling domestic energy demands.

We can say for sure that the Shannon LNG terminal is part of a cluster of gas projects of the so-called European Projects of Common Interest, that could be subsidized with public money. At the moment, Ireland can only receive gas from the UK via the Moffat interconnector point in Scotland, but it cannot send gas to the UK.

The Shannon LNG terminal (or, alternatively, the Cork LNG terminal) would be used as an entry point for fracked US hydrocarbons with the capacity of creating a fossil lock-in for the next 30 – 50 years. Together with the planned reverse flow project at Moffat, the upgrade of the SNIP (Scotland to Northern Ireland pipeline) to accommodate physical reverse flow between Ballylumford and Twynholm and the Islandmagee Underground Gas Storage (UGS) facility at Larne (Northern Ireland), it is part of a big cluster of gas projects that would allow bidirectional flows from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and Ireland, and also from Ireland to United Kingdom

Speakers tour to spread the word

From the 13th – 17th June 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Galway, Ennis, Cork & Dublin to talk with locals and activists about how we can transition to renewables and adapt to change and develop resilience, locally and globally. I am very thankful to Not Here Not Anywhere, the Galway Greens, People’s Climate Clare, Clare Climate Champions and UCC Environmental Society for making this possible. It was also an absolute pleasure to have had the opportunity to present together with Dr. Mary Green, lecturer and researcher in Human Geography in Galway, as well as Dr. Vincent Garragher, community sustainability researcher at the Department of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering in Dublin.

We all saw and heard how important it was to finally start spreading the message about this very troublesome development. A big majority of our audience – lots of them very active and engaged climate/environmental activists – had never heard of the proposed LNG terminals at Shannon & Cork and the global as well as the local threats directly linked with them. The working sessions we had after the actual presentations were extremely productive and I am convinced that all the people who attended will function as passionate multiplyers for the cause.

It also appears as if we came “just in time” with this speakers tour. Rumour has it that a public consultation about whether or not the Irish people think that importing fracked US gas and creating a fossil lock-in really fits with the future plans of a Green Island could soon be launched.

So watch this space and stay tuned for more informations to come soon. In the meantime, spread the message and make people and politicians aware of the proposed LNG terminals at Shannon and Cork.

Together, we’ll succeed in paving the way to the much needed fossil-free future.

See the presentation for the speakers tour.

For questions & more details contact: Andy Gheorghiu, Policy Advisor/Campaigner at Food & Water Europe ([email protected])