Commission confirms Shannon LNG amid 55 gas projects on special EU energy list

Published by Niall Sargent on

November 1st, 2019

The European Commission has confirmed that the Shannon LNG gas terminal is included among 55 fossil fuel projects on the EU’s latest list of priority energy projects.

In one of the last acts of President Juncker’s administration, the Commission rubber-stamped the Projects of Commons Interest (PCI) list that critics say flies in the face of the climate emergency due to the number of gas projects included.

The PCI list – now in its fourth edition – grants access to a streamlined planning and permitting process. Projects are also eligible for access to a multi-billion euro funding pot despite the EU’s commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Critics of the Shannon LNG project, including opposition parties, scientists, civil society groups and Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo, argue that the project would see Ireland become a key entry point for US fracked gas into the bloc.

The terminal that would import liquefied natural gas – an energy-intensive process in itself – is currently caught up in a court case over a number of environmental and planning concerns.

Other LNG projects on the latest PCI list include terminals in northern Greece, Poland, and Croatia. Critics argue that support for such gas projects will help prop up the struggling US fracking industry.

The industry has seen a bumper rise in exports to the EU since President Juncker and President Trump agreed to strengthen energy ties in July 2018.

report released by Food and Water Europe in June found that exports to Europe increased by 181 per cent since the agreement was signed.

Ciaran Ciuffe, Green Party Photo: Niall Sargent
MEP Ciaran Cuffe has spoken out against the Shannon LNG project Photo: Niall Sargent

On to the Parliament

The PCI list will now go before the European Parliament where elected officials have repeatedly demanded greater inclusion in the list’s drafting process.

While MEPs now have two-months to scrutinise the PCI list, the elected officials can only vote on the package as a whole and not for the removal of individual projects.

Irish MEPs have raised concern with the Commission over the inclusion of Shannon LNG on the list. The Green Party’s Ciarán Cuffe recently said that it is “utterly unacceptable” that no environmental or climate assessment of the PCI projects was undertaken.   

“I believe that this project will lock Ireland into continued fossil fuel use just as we desperately need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels if we are to stand any chance of meeting our international obligations and mitigating the onset of climate breakdown,” he said.

Appearing before the Parliament’s energy committee last month, the deputy director-general of the Commission’s energy division Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, confirmed that no environmental or sustainability impact assessment of the energy projects on the list have been carried out to date.

Under EU regulations, the Commission is obliged to carrying out a sustainability assessment.  The Irish government has called on the Commission to ensure that an assessment is carried out.

The fact that the project does not connect with the rest of Europe is also an issue, according to Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth Ireland, and should have seen Shannon LNG taken off the list.

“It’s hard to see how the Shannon LNG terminal even qualifies as a so-called ‘project of common interest’ – it does not connect with the rest of Europe [and] it has not been assessed for the impacts on our climate targets,” she said.

According to the Commission, projects on the list must have a significant impact on energy markets and market integration in at least two EU countries as required under the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) Regulations.

Shannon LNG was included in two projects with the UK, a gas storage facility in Northern Ireland and a reverse interconnector pipeline between Ireland and Moffat in Scotland.

Both projects were removed from the draft PCI list after the EU’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) found that the overall project “did not prove that their overall benefits outweigh costs”.

A similar LNG project in Sweden was pulled from the final list after the government, citing climate concerns, denied permission for a connecting pipeline between the proposed terminal and the national grid.

“The Gothenburg LNG terminal in Sweden was removed from the [Baltic energy market interconnection plan] list… following the Swedish authorities’ decision denying authorization for a connection of the LNG terminal to the gas transmission grid, without which the project does not have a cross border impact as required by the TEN-E Regulation,” the Commission said.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London