Fuel threat

Ireland’s gas imports a warning on energy security

Ireland now imports most of its gas via Scotland

Ireland’s decision to stop issuing new exploration licences for oil and gas has left it reliant on UK sources of gas and highlights the dangers of cutting off domestic supplies, says an energy group.

Irish gas imports via Scotland have more than doubled since 2017 to 75% of demand, according to a report from Offshore Energies UK (OEUK).

By 2030 the Republic could be 90% reliant on gas pumped from the UK via pipelines running under the Irish Sea from Scotland. 

OEUK’s Business Outlook Report 2023, due out on 28 March, will warn that Ireland’s growing reliance on imports could be ‘irreversible’ because of an Irish government decision to stop issuing new exploration licences for oil and gas. It means that, as Ireland’s existing gas fields become depleted, it has very limited ways of replacing them.

Ireland’s growing reliance on the UK for primary energy illustrates the importance for all countries of maximising energy efficiency and domestic energy production, says the OEK.

The report will argue that, in the short term, the UK must not give in to pressure from environmental groups calling for similar bans on North Sea oil and gas exploration – or risk leaving the UK increasingly dependent on other countries and exposed to global shortages. It says that in the longer-term energy independence will come from accelerating the move to low carbon energies.

There are three gas pipelines running from Scotland under the Irish Sea. One takes gas to Northern Ireland while the others feed into the Irish Republic.

Ireland’s de facto ban on further oil and gas exploration was formalised in 2021 with the Irish government saying then that the move was part of a wider effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Data published by the Irish government supports the findings. A recent report said: “In 2019, 53% of Ireland’s natural gas use was imported from the UK. Following the depletion of the Corrib gas field, Ireland is expected to be dependent on over 80% imports by the mid-2020s and over 90% by 2030.

“Ireland’s economy depends on continued secure supplies of natural gas … With a significant percentage of Ireland’s electricity being generated from gas, there is a critical interdependence between electricity and gas security.”

The OEUK report will say that natural gas flows to Ireland have “more than doubled since 2017”, as domestic Irish supplies have fallen. 

Ross Dornan, OEUK’s markets intelligence manager, author of the forthcoming report, said: “The Irish government was acting with good intentions. It imposed this ban to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

“But such bans can only reduce emissions if they are coupled with reductions in gas demand and consumption, otherwise, you risk making your country ever more reliant on imports. 

“Gas imported from abroad usually generates more emissions because of the energy used to liquefy it, transport it and then turn it back into a gas. So there is no real benefit for the planet if you replace domestic supplies with imports.”

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