The Kinsale gas fields off the Cork coast could be used by the State to capture and store carbon waste once they are decommissioned from use in the next decade.
Semi-state body Ervia, previously known as Bord Gáis, said it was exploring taking over the gas fields following the decommissioning process, which is being initiated by owners Kinsale Energy.
Ervia said it could use the empty gas fields to store 2.5m tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted from the two existing natural gas-fired power stations at Whitegate and Aghada in East Cork — more than 6% of the country’s annual emissions.
A subsidiary of Petronas since 2009, Kinsale Energy said it is preparing a decommissioning plan for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment for the fields, which are 50kms off the south coast of Cork.
The Kinsale Head, Ballycotton, Seven Heads and South-West Kinsale gas fields have been in production since 1978 and the firm has calculated the gas reserves will have been depleted by 2020 or 2021.
Decommissioning will take place intermittently over a number of years once field production ceases, the firm said.
Under the plan, all wells will be permanently plugged and the associated facilities including platforms, pipelines, cables, subsea structures and the onshore terminal at Inch in East Cork will be decommissioned.
A redundancy process will be put in place for the approximately 60 workers.
The Kinsale fields were developed from 1978 to 2003, supplying all of Ireland’s natural gas from 1978 to 1995, and remained Ireland’s only indigenous source of natural gas until 2015, when the Corrib field began.
By the time the fields will cease production, almost two trillion cubic feet of gas will have been produced, double the original reserve estimate.
Whereas the pipelines transported gas from the fields to the facility at Inch, the reverse would happen in the carbon-trapping process by Ervia.
Carbon dioxide waste would be captured onshore and would be transported back out to sea where they would then be stored in the now-empty gas fields.
As part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Republic will need to reduce emissions by 80%—95% by 2050. It is currently one of the worst performing countries in terms of climate targets.
A spokesman said: “Rather than see the field closed, with the consequent loss of infrastructure, Ervia is keen to explore the option of utilising the field and in doing so, help Ireland address its emissions targets and join a growing field of companies leading the way in carbon capture-and-storage technology worldwide.”
However, it was still at the early stages and Kinsale Energy is undertaking the decommissioning as required by statutory process.
Kinsale Energy chief executive Fergal Murphy said: “The fields have contributed significantly to the local economy and to the development of the natural gas industry in Ireland.
“We are now moving forward with our plans to decommission the facilities safely, efficiently and with due regard for the environment, in accordance with all legislative requirements.”