Why the Shannon LNG terminal is so controversial
For the moment, it seems that the Shannon LNG project is at a standstill.
In a court of appeal last week, it emerged that Shannon LNG had disavowed its status as a PCI (Project of Common Interest). This means that in its current planning application, An Bord Pleanala cannot assess its application as a project of overriding public interest.
Two weeks ago, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan ordered An Bord Pleanala not to grant planning permission for the Shannon LNG terminal. Last week, Ryan’s government colleague, Leo Varadkar, said the terminal would not be blocked by the government.
A controversial project
Shannon’s LNG terminal proposed for Tarbert in County Kerry has been a controversial project for years, even though no piece of turf has been turned over to the land for it.
More than 1,500 people signed a petition opposing the project along with 70 TDs and senators. The site is against government policy.
People who oppose the project, including Safety Before LNG’s John McElligot, say projects like these that rely on fractured gas should not be allowed in a climate emergency.
“The real problem with hydraulic fracturing is fugitive emissions,” John said.
“The gas that doesn’t burn. It goes into the atmosphere as CH4 and is 87 times more potent over a 20 year period.
Others argue that Shannon LNG would provide Ireland with energy security as the Corrib gas field runs out.
However, McElligot points out that EirGrid has predicted that a huge burden on Irish energy over the next decade will be data centers and Shannon LNG intends to build eight data centers on its site.
“We know that if we create all these big, massive fossil fuel projects, they’re going to be stalled for 50 years and then we’re screwed as far as 2C is concerned,” he said.
The gas is fractured by pumping water and sand underground at high pressure. The gas that is collected can be burned, but what escapes has a warming effect on our environment. The world is currently 1.2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels. According to numerous studies, if global average temperatures exceed 1.5°C, there will be catastrophic consequences for everyone on Earth.
When the gas is cooled to about -160C, the volume decreases and this facilitates transportation. This liquefied natural gas (LNG) is what they propose to import into Ireland.
“It’s no longer considered a PCI context account for the PCI process in ABP, so I think they’ve put it on hold,” McElligot said.
“They will await the results of the energy review … expected in July.”
What Shannon LNG plans
The company behind Shannon LNG, New Fortress Energy, applied for a new building permit last September.
In its building permit application, Shannon LNG proposes a 600 megawatt gas-fired electricity generator, an LNG terminal and batteries to store up to 120 megawatts of electricity. The terminal would import chilled natural gas for transportation.
A floating plant will heat the liquid so that it becomes gaseous. From there it will be supplied to the power plant and the national supply network.
The site notice published by Shannon LNG indicates that the terminal will be able to supply up to 22.6 million cubic meters of natural gas per day.
A brief history of Shannon LNG
In March 2008, the Shannon LNG terminal obtained a ten-year building permit. However, it had not been completed by 2018 and An Bord Pleanála granted it a five-year extension.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) challenged this extension. They argued that the permit should not have been extended because no proper environmental assessment had ever been carried out on the project.
The FIE won the case. In 2019, the European Court of Justice informed the High Court that the extension of the authorization must be subject to a new environmental impact assessment under the Habitats Directive.
In 2020, the High Court ordered An Bord Pleanála to cancel its planning permission extension for the Shannon LNG terminal.
However, the FIE also argued that Shannon LNG should not have been on the PCI list.
The FIE said the Irish state and the EU failed to carry out independent sustainability, climate and cost-benefit analyzes of the terminal before it was added to the fourth project list of common interest (PCI) of the EU. PCIs are key cross-border infrastructure projects linking the energy systems of EU countries.
The High Court condemned the FIE on this point and the environmental NGO appealed last May. Last week it emerged that Shannon LNG had disavowed its PCI status when re-applying for planning permission. This means that the project cannot be considered to be of overriding public interest.