The plan, involving the Texas-based Nextdecade and the port authority, will see the installation of a new jetty in Whitegate in Cork harbour to berth a massive container ship storing liquefied nitrogen gas (LNG), which will then be converted into vaporous gas and pumped into the national grid.
The ambitious project also involves storing gas coming from the US into the emptying gas caverns in the Kinsale gas fields.
Port of Cork commercial manager Captain Michael McCarthy said that the container ship will act as a floating storage and conversion unit from LNG to natural gas and will be berthed at a new terminal in Whitegate.
The LNG will be converted into natural gas pumped into a new underwater pipeline which will be constructed between the jetty and the main grid.
“It’s important because it will also supply the power stations in Aghada operated by Bord Gáis and the ESB. Currently the gas we use [as a country] comes from Scotland, via Russia.
“It will secure our supply of gas in the years to come, regardless of what may happen politically elsewhere,” he said.
Political instability in other countries and threats to cut off the supply of natural gas could leave this island nation vulnerable to fuel supplies.
Next month, the chiefs executive of Nextdecade and an allied company, Flex Living Partnership, are to visit Cork to work further on the project.
“We have signed an agreement already that the Port of Cork can deal exclusively to develop the project in Cork harbour,” said Capt McCarthy.
He said the advantage of the location is ideal because it’s close to the Kinsale gas line, which comes onto the mainland nearby, so it would not take a lot of money to hook-up the container ship to it.
In addition, the country’s major pharmachem companies, which now rely significantly on gas power, are scattered around the harbour.
“Also, a number of major agri-based industries rely on natural gas from the national grid and this will be ideal for them,” said Capt McCarthy.
“The potential storage capacity in the offshore gas fields [off Kinsale when the caverns are depleted] will help us build up significant reserves if needed, for the first time in this country’s history,”he added.
“The location in a deepwater berth is absolutely ideal for such a project.”
The Port of Cork has been in discussions for many months with the American company and hopes to progress them even further when their bosses visit next month.