Plan to import gas through Cork harbour abandoned as port company severs ties with US firm

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said he had been told a 2017 agreement to import liquified natural gas through Cork harbour had expired and would not be renewed
Plan to import gas through Cork harbour abandoned as port company severs ties with US firm

The site in the lower Cork harbour where the liquified natural gas terminal was to be located. File picture.

The Port of Cork has cut ties with a US firm which could have led to fracked gas being imported through, and stored in, Cork Harbour.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said he had been informed that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2017 between the Port of Cork company and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) development company in the US expired on December 31, 2020.

And he said he had been told the port company “has no intention to renew it”.

The Green Party in Cork welcomed the news and said it effectively meant the end of any potential LNG plans for Cork Harbour.

The details are contained in the minister’s response to a parliamentary question from Green TD Neasa Hourigan.

The port company signed the MoU with US company Next Decade and its partners in 2017 to explore a joint development opportunity for a new Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) and associated LNG import terminal infrastructure in Ireland.

The LNG would be sourced from Next Decade’s proposed Rio Grande LNG export facility at the Port of Brownsville in South Texas. The company uses fracking in some of its explorations.

The Port of Cork stressed at the time that the signing of an MoU is a very early stage in a long consultative process. But it came under intense pressure to abandon the process.

In later 2019, there was a near-unanimous vote by Cork’s city councillors in support of a Green Party motion which called on councillors to write to the Port of Cork and the then environment minister, Richard Bruton, to formally request that the port company cease any work to develop facilities in the harbour to “enable the importation of LNG extracted using hydraulic fracturing.

However, efforts by the Green Party in Cork County Council to stop the project were blocked in October 2020.

In his response to Ms Hourigan, Mr Ryan said the programme for government sets out that as Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality it does not make sense to develop LNG terminals that import fracked gas.

He said his department was carrying out a review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems which is focusing on the period to 2030 in the context of ensuring a sustainable pathway to 2050.

The review will include a technical analysis and a public consultation, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, he said.

Green Party councillor for Cork City North East Oliver Moran welcomed the news.

He said party members met Bekah Hinojosa, a resident from Texas, in 2019, who explained first-hand the effect that extracting gas through fracking has on the local environment, especially for already marginalised communities.

“Fracking means injecting liquid into the earth and breaking up rocks under the ground to release gas. This has the effect of contaminating groundwater and unsettling the earth, even affecting birth outcomes,” he said.

Ireland banned fracking in 2017. The support from across the city and county in opposing the importing of fracked gas through Cork after that has been tremendous.

“The message is very clear, Cork does not welcome fracked gas. We know we have to make the transition to a low-carbon economy but fracking and all of its effects has no place in that. Not here, not anywhere.”

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