Ireland should not put a ban on liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals, such as the one proposed for Cork, the chairman of Port of Cork has said.
John Mullins, who is also the founder and chairman of solar energy company Amarenco Solar, said there is a perception that the LNG being imported is fracked gas — but this is not always the case.
“There’s this issue that LNG is bad because it’s fracked gas,” he said.
“That’s incorrect. You can get LNG from well gas in Qatar and Oman. The majority of LNG in the world is not fracked.
“There’s nothing wrong with LNG because it provides security and diversity of supply, but there is a problem with fracked gas.”
He feels the decision to take Shannon LNG off the table as part of the programme for government has not been thought out.
“Frankly, I think the level of understanding between fracked and non-fracked gas, where it comes from and the security of supply, is one which is complicated,” he said.
“It’s not as simple as ‘no to fracked gas’.”
In 2017, the Port of Cork Company signed a memorandum of understanding with NextDecade Corporation, a US-based LNG firm, to explore a joint development opportunity for a new floating storage regasification unit and associated LNG import terminal infrastructure in Cork Harbour.
It is understood that capital investment in the proposed project would be in excess of €200m, employing approximately 30 permanent staff .
Mr Mullins said that well gas could be imported from various countries, with a certificate of origin presented as proof that gas was not fracked.
Mr Mullins is also a former CEO of Bord Gáis, and while he currently invests in decarbonising by building solar farms, he said it is unrealistic to believe that Ireland will be entirely carbon-neutral in 30 years.
“You can’t roll out renewables without actually having gas there to make sure you’ve got a base load. That’s the problem,” he said.
“The target is not 100% renewable — it’s 70%. Thirty per cent has to come from somewhere. Coal is closed down, oil is closed down, peat will close down. The only other alternative for the other 30% is gas. Looking at any prediction for 2050, you’ll have the same amount of gas plants in Ireland as you have in 2020, so where is the gas going to come from?
“The reserve levels in the North Sea are less than 20 years. By 2040, we could be depleted. We’re reliant on Britain. Corrib is gone, Kinsale Gas is gone.”
With Brexit looming, Mr Mullins said that having no supply of our own could be detrimental.
Cork City councillor Lorna Bogue, who has campaigned against LNG terminals in Ireland, said that she “doesn’t buy” Mr Mullins’ analysis.
“We shouldn’t be bringing in fossil fuels anyway, even if they’re brought up in the most clean way possible,” she said. “That’s an oxymoron. There is no clean way to bring up fossil fuels.
“We have to keep them in the ground,” she said, adding that fracked gas is an absolute non-runner.
Regarding a certificate of origin, Ms Bogue does not believe that would work.
“There isn’t any way to differentiate between those two types of gas,” she said.
Ms Bogue also questioned why Mr Mullins was intervening in the debate, given his position.