OEUK: Ireland’s natural gas drilling ban threatens energy security, sends warning to UK policy makers


(WO) — Ireland is becoming ever more reliant on Britain for gas supplies, with UK imports more than doubling since 2017 to 75% of Irish demand, and set to hit 90%, a report from Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) will say.

By 2030, the Republic of Ireland could be 90% reliant on gas pumped from the UK via pipelines running under the Irish Sea from Scotland. Details will be contained in OEUK’s Business Outlook Report 2023, due out on March 28.

OEUK’s report will warn that Ireland’s growing reliance on imports could be ‘irreversible’ because of an Irish government decision to stop issuing new exploration licenses 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 maximizing energy efficiency and domestic energy production.

OEUK’s report will say 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. Such a move would leave the UK in the same situation as Ireland – increasingly dependent on other countries and exposed to global shortages. In the longer-term energy independence will come from accelerating the move to low carbon energies.

Natural gas meets over 30% of the Irish Republic’s energy needs, heating and powering 700,000 homes and businesses and generating over 50% of its electricity. Demand for both gas and electricity is increasing – partly because of Ireland’s growing number of data centers which are predicted to consume 23% of all the Irish republic’s electricity by 2030.

However, following Ireland’s depletion of its existing gas fields, a decision not to open any more, and a lack of low-carbon replacements, the nation is becoming increasingly dependent on imports. It’s de facto ban on further oil and gas exploration was formalized 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.

The OEUK report will say that natural gas flows to Ireland have “more than doubled since 2017”, as domestic Irish supplies have fallen. “The country is considering how to ensure energy security in this context, including the development of LNG imports as a part of its supply portfolio.”

The OEUK report comes as some environmental groups call for an end to further oil and gas exploration in UK waters. OEUK’s report warns that such a move risks making the UK ever more dependent on imports – as has happened in Ireland.

The repercussions could go further. The 2022 energy crisis has seen the UK playing an increasingly important role in European energy security. Its gas networks provided 4 billion cubic meters of gas to Ireland in 2022 – the highest since 2015.

The UK also sent 19 billion cubic meters of gas to continental Europe – almost double the previous record. The increase in gas sent to Europe was provided by LNG shipments to the UK and is a role it would have been unable to play without its own domestic resources as the imported supplies would have been needed by UK consumers.

Ross Dornan, OEUK’s markets intelligence manager, author of the forthcoming report, said, “Following the Republic of Ireland’s ban on new oil and gas licensing, its government’s own estimates suggest that by 2030 Ireland could be 90% reliant on gas imports.

“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.

“The events in Ireland and its growing dependence on imports highlight the dangers of applying similar bans to the UK’s production of oil and gas from the North Sea, Irish Sea and Atlantic. The UK is a vital strategic partner to Ireland and its European neighbors, helping maintain energy supplies in their time of need. We hope they would do the same for us. It would be dangerous to disrupt these mutually supportive networks.”

ENB Top News
Energy Dashboard
ENB Podcast
ENB Substack