Tuesday 19 August 2008

Plan to 'store' millions of tonnes of gas off Dublin Bay

MILLIONS OF tonnes of carbon-dioxide (CO2) and natural gas could end up being "stored" in undersea caverns beneath the Kish Bank, off Dublin Bay, under a project being planned by an Irish-Malaysian joint venture.

Providence Resources, headed by Tony O'Reilly jnr, and its partner, Star Energy, are to begin evaluating the potential of the Kish Bank basin for "carbon sequestration" and natural gas storage, it was announced yesterday.

The study, dubbed the "Ulysses project", is being carried out on a 50/50 basis with Star Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petronas, the Malaysian national oil company, which claims to be the leading gas-storage operator in Britain.

Providence and Star Energy were recently awarded a three-year licensing option over eight blocks in the Kish Bank basin by the Department of Energy. It also covers oil and gas exploration.

The Ulysses project will assess the potential use of Triassic-aged sandstone reservoirs beneath the Kish Bank - 20km east of Dublin Bay - as possible sites for carbon sequestration, with the overlying shale used to seal it.

Mr O'Reilly said he hoped the project would contribute to reducing Ireland's carbon footprint as well as increasing its natural gas storage capacity, both identified by the Government as strategic national objectives.

Speaking to The Irish Times , he said the two partners were "not fooling ourselves to think that this will be a quick and easy process". However, they hoped to find out "within a year" whether the Kish Bank basin would be suitable.

He said Providence and Star Energy would also be talking to electricity producers, notably the ESB, about buying into the project if it turned out to be a runner. These were the "obvious candidates" to avail of a facility to store both gas and CO2.

"We think this is an exciting project, and we're obviously anxious to progress it," Mr O'Reilly said. "We want to see whether we can capture the CO2, pipe it and then inject it 1.5km into the earth. And it's encouraging that this has been done before."

Roland Wessel, chief executive of Star Energy, said: "We are excited to be working with Providence on the Ulysses project which has the potential to be the first successful offshore carbon sequestration project in both Ireland and the UK."

A similar offshore CO2 sequestration project known as Sleipner has been successfully operating in the North Sea by Norwegian oil company Statoil Hydro since 1996. It was designed to offset carbon tax liabilities estimated at €34 million per annum.

CO2 sequestration, or storage, is seen by oil companies and others as a technological "fix" for climate change by capturing CO2 before it enters the atmosphere. Last April, StatoilHydro said Sleipner had so far sequestered 10 million tonnes.

Undersea storage of natural gas is also seen as increasingly vital. Marathon Oil operates Ireland's only gas-storage facility at the Kinsale Head field, off the coast of Co Cork, but it only has a storage capacity of five to seven billion cubic feet.

The Government's Green Paper on Energy, published last year, recommends that Ireland should have at least three months of reserve natural gas storage (around 45 billion cubic feet) in the event of any interruption in supply.

The Irish Times


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