The well runs dry

Gas Chat Ireland's Mark Ryan reflects on a year like no other and a landmark moment in Kinsale...

The Kinsale Head wells have been supplying natural gas since 1978.

We are halfway through 2020, a year that will be ingrained in our memories for generations to come. The phased lifting of the lockdown has led to a new normal, and finally, a new government.

There are very mixed opinions on what this means, particularly with regard to natural gas and LPG, with many believing that the Green Party in government will spell the end of fossil fuels, or at least speed up its demise. It’s too early, however, to determine the affect the green lobby will have on our current gas exploration policy.

Last September the government, on advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council, announced further exploration licenses would be awarded for natural gas only. According to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, natural gas is considered a low CO2 emitting fossil fuel in comparison with peat, coal and oil. Gas, it would appear, will be here for some time to come. That’s the future, but what about the past? Where it all began… Kinsale Head.

In 1971, American company Marathon Oil Corporation discovered a gas field 50km off the coast of Cork. To this day it remains the largest ever single hydro-carbon discovery in Ireland, Corrib field is only at approximately 70% capacity. Two production platforms were built in 1977, Alpha and Bravo, with gas initially supplied to the power station at Aghada (1978) and subsequently to the entire country. 1995 saw gas production at its peak, with 2.8 billion metres cubed of natural gas being produced.

Satellite gas fields at Ballycotton, south-west Kinsale, and Seven Heads were discovered between 1991 and 2003. April 2020 saw the gas wells at Kinsale come to the end of their usable life. Production has ceased and the wells will be permanently plugged. Both production platforms will be decommissioned, along with subsea wellheads, cabling and all associated infrastructure will begin. It’s a long drawn out process, possibly two to three years, in an attempt to minimize the environmental impact.

What can’t be decommissioned is the positive impact Kinsale had on our lives. It provided welcome employment (particularly with the establishment of Bord Gais Eireann in 1975 – now known as Gas Networks Ireland); and won’t be forgotten by guys like us who supply, install and service gas appliances day in and day out. Food for thought while you’re counting down the clock on your let by and soundness test.


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