€338m Cork deal to import Texas gas

Location, a logistical opportunity, and the boss of an major American company with local roots have combined into a perfect “positive” storm for a project which could safeguard Ireland’s energy requirements for many years to come.

NextDecade Corporation chief executive Kathleen Eisbrenner was in Cork yesterday to announce her company's role in the project.

An almost unlimited supply of natural gas on the Texas/Mexico border, the closure of the rapidly-dying Kinsale Gas Fields in 2021, and an existing gas supply infrastructure in Cork harbour have made it an opportunity not to be missed.

The €338m pact between NextDecade Corporation, Flex LNG, and the Port of Cork to import natural gas is in the pipeline and could be completed as soon as late 2019 via a new terminal to be constructed in Whitegate.

NextDecade Corporation chief executive Kathleen Eisbrenner was in Cork yesterday to announce her company’s role in the project and her first trip to the lower harbour brought back some nostalgia. NextDecade is listed on the stock exchange and worth nearly €1bn.

The former senior executive with Shell seemed genuinely taken with the warm welcome she received, especially after revealing that her grandfather, Daniel Collins, had emigrated from Cobh in the early 1920s for a new life in America and was probably from West Cork.

Ms Eisbrenner and her entourage were brought to see the proposed facility in Whitegate. A tour of the harbour culminated with her visiting the Queenstown Heritage Centre and a visit to a local expert who is working on tracing her Collins’ roots.

Today, Ms Eisbrenner and her fellow investors will meet with representatives from Gas Networks Ireland, the Maritime College of Ireland and Kinsale Energy, the group which operates the gas fields in that area. Ms Eisbrenner and Flex LGN chief executive Jonathan Cook described the presence of expertise in the maritime college as an added bonus.

Meanwhile, Energy Cork, which speaks for a number of major industries located around the harbour, welcomed the announcement. Spokesman Kieran Lettice said the project would provide the Irish market with strategically important direct access to alternative sources of natural gas.

He said that US natural gas prices have, for the past decade, been significantly cheaper than European prices.

“This is an exciting development for Cork and a very important one for Ireland.” he said. “LNG, and in particular FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit) technology, is unlocking a global marketplace for natural gas.

“It’s expanding the diversity of supply of natural gas and providing price competition to markets, particularly in Western Europe.

“Cork is an ideal location. Facilitating the import of LNG into the Irish market would significantly boost the diversity of sources and security of supply for Ireland’s natural gas supply, adding to indigenous production and imports by pipeline from the UK.”

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