Northern Ireland: The Shannon LNG project undermines climate goals in Ireland, say critics

Aug 25, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

With the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow, there is an increasing focus on outlining net-zero pledges and a push towards sustainability targets. Of course, Ireland is included here and is currently seeing two climate bills pass through the Assembly. One seeks net-zero by 2045, and the other is slightly less ambitious, pushing for an 82% reduction in emissions by 2050. The government also recently set another sustainability target that by 2030, 70% of Ireland's electricity will come from renewable sources. 

While these climate goals are hotly debated, Ireland's data center boom is complicating things. EirGrid highlights that, by 2028, data centres could account for 29% of Ireland's total energy demand while guzzling gallons of water. 

Now, the Shannon LNG planning permission application could undercut the government's ambitious sustainability targets even further. Shannon LNG is a project backed by US-based Fortress Energy that wants to establish a natural gas plant and power station in County Kerry, Ireland. According to reports, the project would fracked fossil liquid natural gas from the US, which would then power up to eight data centers on a new campus, counteracting sustainability goals.

According to Sam Abdalla, vice-president of project development with Shannon LNG's shareholder, US-based New Fortress Energy, the project would address "Ireland's shortfall in stable electricity generation." Environmentalists argue that the cost of this project would be its detrimental effect on the environment. Although proponents have argued that fracked gas can act as a "bridge fuel" to renewables, this ignores the fact that fracked gas contaminates groundwater, causes methane leaks in extraction, production, transmission and distribution, and causes earthquakes.

The NFE informed An Bord Pleanála in its pre-application consultations that the proposed development "is not dependent on fracked gas" and "it is confident that it can source gas from non-fracked sources in order to meet the energy demand and security of supply in Ireland". That said, this has not alleviated concerns from climate activists.

In 2008, the High Court overturned An Bord Pleanála's decision to extend its permission for an LNG terminal after years of campaigning by Friends of the Irish Environment.

Shannon LNG will submit its new application in the coming days.