The Government will publish a report in coming weeks that is likely to clarify its position on liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals in the State.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin this week confirmed that the Coalition was “actively considering” an LNG terminal as a future alternative gas supply in light of the country’s vulnerability to any shortage of the fuel in Europe.
The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications confirmed on Friday that it should complete a long-awaited energy security review before the end of September.
That is likely to clarify the Government’s position on the question of allowing planners to give permission to anyone seeking to build an LNG terminal in the Republic.
A department spokesman said that the review would consider the need for additional capacity to import energy. “The underpinning analysis has been updated to reflect changing circumstances following the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said.
Russia’s move to cut natural gas supplies to Europe prompted energy industry figures to warn that the Republic could face a shortage of the fuel, needed to generate electricity, this winter.
Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, last year stalled consideration of any plans for LNG terminals here pending the review’s findings.
US multinational New Fortress proposes building an LNG plant at Ballylongford, Co Kerry, on the Shannon Estuary, where environmentalists began protests this week.
An LNG terminal would allow the State import the fuel from tankers that ship from production centres in the Middle and Far East, and the Americas.
That would give the State an additional source of gas to the Corrib reservoir off the west coast, and imports from the United Kingdom.
Mr Ryan and environmentalists fear that LNG shipments here could include gas produced by fracking, a controversial drilling method to which the green lobby objects.
However, most of the gas used for LNG is extracted using conventional drilling. New Fortress has indicated that it is willing to accept planning or licensing conditions banning it from including fracked gas in any shipments here.
Successive governments have faced pressure to find alternative natural gas supplies, including LNG, for several years, before fallout from the war in Ukraine highlighted the State’s vulnerability to shortages.
The Irish Academy of Engineering warned in a paper three years ago that failing to add further sources of the gas would leave the Republic relying solely on British imports once the Corrib field runs out over the next decade. Britain itself has to import the gas from Europe during the winter.
Gas Networks Ireland managing director Denis O’Sullivan cautioned four years ago that the State needed an LNG terminal to help ensure security of supply.
Any LNG terminal that gets planning permission would take five years to build, so a decision to finally allow the technology here would not solve the immediate energy problems that the State faces.
Generally, high demand and an increased requirement for gas in Asia have pushed up LNG prices recently.
An Bord Pleanála will consider any application from New Fortress under the strategic infrastructure system.