Business Irish

Tuesday 20 August 2019

End of an era as Kinsale gas field set to run dry

Kinsale Head started producing natural gas in 1978 in a landmark for Ireland
Kinsale Head started producing natural gas in 1978 in a landmark for Ireland
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

More than 40 years after the Kinsale field started producing Ireland's first commercial natural gas, the decommissioning of the asset is to proceed after the Government determined that the process won't harm the environment.

Two Irish units of Malaysian energy giant Petronas had sought approval last year to begin a large-scale decommissioning process around 2020.

Three distinct assets will be decommissioned - the Kinsale Head and Ballycotton gas fields, as well as the Seven Heads gas fields. Production from the Kinsale Head gas field commenced in 1978, with the Ballycotton and Seven Heads fields coming on stream between 1991 and 2003.

The production facilities are located in the Celtic Sea, between approximately 40 and 70km off the county Cork coast, and onshore at Inch, County Cork. The operations still employ about 60 people, and include two platforms.

The fields are coming to the end of their productive life, and are expected to be uneconomical by 2020 or 2021.

"The discovery of the field was the basis for the development of the natural gas industry in Ireland and Kinsale Head was Ireland's only source of gas until the installation of an interconnector pipeline from Scotland in 1993," notes the decommissioning plan.

The gas finds were the first commercially-viable hydrocarbons produced in Ireland and would remain so until the Corrib gas field off Co Mayo started pumping its first gas ashore in 2015 after a tortuous planning and legal process.

PSE Kinsale Energy, formerly Marathon Oil Ireland, operates the Kinsale Head, Ballycotton and Seven Heads gas fields. It's owned by Petronas, the state-owned Malaysia oil and gas company that's among the biggest such firms in the world. It made a $13.5bn (€12bn) profit last year.

Last year, the operators applied to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment for approval of decommissioning plans for Kinsale Head, Ballycotton and Seven Heads assets.

The Department sought further information last September, and has now approved the decommissioning plans, which will see a total of 19 sub-sea wells plugged and abandoned.

There's a significant amount of infrastructure connected to the gas fields, including pipelines connecting fields, wellheads, and pipelines leading to shore.

After the initial Kinsale Head discovery, the Celtic Sea was extensively explored, with about 90 wells drilled there. But no other large fields were discovered.

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