The owner of the Kinsale gas fields has sought Government approval to leave pipelines from the various wells in situ as part of the decommissioning programme following the exhaustion of gas supplies in the Celtic Sea.
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PSE Kinsale Energy has applied to the Minister of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, to leave all pipelines serving the Kinsale Head, Ballycotton, Seven Heads and Southwest Kinsale gas fields lying on the seabed.
They include the 24-inch diameter export pipeline between the Kinsale Alpha platform and an onshore facility at Inch, Co Cork.
The company has also sought permission to install rock berms around the pipelines to lower the risk of any snagging hazards which could pose a risk to fishing vessels.
PSE Kinsale Energy has previously been granted permission for the plugging and abandonment of the wells and the removal of platforms and other infrastructure.
Under the original planning permission, the company is required to fully remove the onshore gas metering terminal in Inch and restore the land to agricultural use.
The entire decommissioning project for the gas fields will involve the removal of almost 37,300 tonnes of steel, concrete and other materials and is expected to be completed by 2023.
Gas production from the wells ceased on July 5, 2020, after all reserves in the various fields were depleted.
The Kinsale gas fields, which are located between 40km and 70km off the Co Cork coast in depths of up to 100 metres, supplied all of Ireland’s natural gas between 1978 and 1995.
The decommissioning project involves the plugging of 19 wells as well as the removal of two large steel platforms and associated underwater infrastructure.
PSE Kinsale Energy, which is owned by the Malaysian energy giant, Petronas, said the majority of the gasfields’ facilities are close to or beyond their original design lives.
While it had considered potential re-uses including hydrocarbon production, carbon dioxide storage and wind energy productions, PSE Kinsale Energy said none of the alternative uses were considered feasible.
However, the company noted that by leaving the pipelines in place on the seabed, they could be used at some future point as a conduit for either fibre optic or electricity cables as part of a windfarm.
The company said the overall conclusion of its environmental impact assessment report was that the decommissioning programme,
Meanwhile, the ESB has begun an examination of the depleted Kinsale Head gas field to assess its potential to store large amounts of green hydrogen.
The State-owned energy company has formed a partnership with a private firm founded by Tony O’Reill, dCarbonX, to develop facilities for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen using excess renewable energy.
There is a growing use of hydrogen as a replacement fuel in a wide variety of sectors including back-up power generation.
It is understood that Ervia is also carrying out a feasibility study on the use of the Kinsale gas fields for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.