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Collectively developed by ESB, dCarbonX and Bord Gáis Energy.

The Kestrel Project

The Kestrel Project represents a unique opportunity to deliver large scale energy security of supply for Ireland which, in turn, will support the expansion of renewable energy production (wind and green hydrogen) in the years ahead. Notably, ESB and Bord Gáis Energy operate significant electrical generation capacity at their nearby onshore Aghada and Whitegate gas-fired power stations and the integration of essential large-scale storage is expected to support the transition of these stations to net zero emissions in the future.

As Ireland’s leading energy providers, ESB and Bord Gáis Energy are committed to providing both a safe and secure energy supply to their customers. The development of green hydrogen storage capacity at scale will play a key role in a Net Zero future.

The National Hydrogen Strategy, published in July 2023, has identified that long duration storage is essential to the future cost competitiveness and price resilience of hydrogen and that geological storage solutions will be needed to support this.

Kestrel Project Work Programme and Achievements

The Kestrel Project has embarked upon an integrated Irish energy system modelling and defined storage requirements for renewable gas and green hydrogen, from today through to 2050. This energy system modelling is being done by the Kestrel Project for Ireland and specifically for Cork (Aghada and Whitegate).

Significantly in 2021, dCarbonX, a founding member of the Kestrel initiative, applied for an underground Gas Storage Licence over the offshore Kinsale area depleted gas fields. In parallel, comprehensive gas field data has been used by dCarbonX’s strategic partners to build a subsurface digital twin of the area for storage performance modelling and future engineering optimisation.

Our Plans to Develop Kinsale Head Gas Field(s)

Phase one involves using the depleted gas fields at Kinsale and Ballycotton for gas storage, taking advantage of the location and remaining infrastructure already in place to provide a critical energy storage facility. Energy from natural gas will be needed until renewable gas and green hydrogen become the fuels of choice for a decarbonised electricity sector, and to have security of supply storage of natural gas is required until there is surplus renewable gas and green hydrogen production.

Phase two involves transitioning the facility to the storage of renewable gas and green hydrogen.

An infographic showing a map of the Ringaskiddy, Cobh, Aghada, and Whitegate area in Co. Cork, with the location of Kestrel Hydrogen Gas Storage, power stations, an offshore windfarm, and electrolysis station indicated.An infographic showing a map of the Ringaskiddy, Cobh, Aghada, and Whitegate area in Co. Cork, with the location of Kestrel Hydrogen Gas Storage, power stations, an offshore windfarm, and electrolysis station indicated.
Kestrel Infographic
PNG | 2.6MB

What work is involved in Kestrel Development

  • The depleted SW Kinsale gas fields will be assessed for hydrogen storage suitability
  • New “hydrogen-ready” wells with higher capacity will be constructed/drilled
  • Legacy Kinsale Head gas export line could be re-utilised reducing project cost and Scope 1 emissions
  • New treatment plant and compression /connection to GNI network onshore in Cork
  • Further subsurface storage capacity potential at Ballycotton and Kinsale Head is being examined

Green Hydrogen

Using a process known as electrolysis, renewable electricity such as wind energy can be used to generate green hydrogen, which can be stored underground and used to generate electricity during periods of low wind energy production. The Kestrel Project is committed to the future delivery of green hydrogen storage in Ireland to ultimately supplant the use of fossil fuels with Ireland’s significant wind resources providing a unique opportunity for the production of green hydrogen.

Benefits of Kestrel

There will be benefits from the construction and operation of Kestrel. These include:

  • Re-uses the only proven gas storage facility in Ireland (sustainability).
  • Provides in country large scale energy storage (security of supply).
  • Provides 100% back-up for energy system (system resilience/security).
  • Provides a pathway for future hydrogen storage (decarbonisation).
  • Avoids the need for development of LNG facilities (Climate Action Plan).

The security and resilience of Ireland’s energy system is being increasingly challenged as legacy large-scale fossil fuel storage projects are decommissioned.

Ireland is currently reliant on natural gas - almost one third of total energy consumed is from natural gas. Looking ahead, even with the increased penetration of renewables, gas will continue to play a major role in Ireland’s energy system through 2040 until it is ultimately displaced by renewable hydrogen and biogas.

Ireland needs approximately 1.5 BCM ( 15 TWhrs ) of Natural Gas storage capacity to guarantee security of supply and to enable future Hydrogen storage. 

Indigenous gas production (25%) is declining sharply and is estimated to cease by the end of the decade (Corrib). Approximately 75% of total consumed gas is imported from a single non-EU point (Moffat, Scotland) and natural gas usage is predicted to increase by up to 40% over the next five years (GNI).

The Irish energy system is dependent on UK imports, which in turn is a fragile system. Whilst Ireland adheres to IEA and EU directives on 90-day oil storage (NORA), it no longer has in-country natural gas storage capacity.

  • SW Kinsale 0.23 BCM offshore storage facility closed 2017.
  • 60% of electrical power generation in Ireland is gas-fired.
  • 2GW of new gas fired CCGT planned.
  • Irish Government CAP committed to increase electrification.

The Kinsale Head Gas Field was discovered in 1971 by the US Company Marathon Oil Corporation. The field which is 50 kilometres off the coast of Co Cork, in 90 metres water depth and at c. 57 billion cubic metres (twice the size of Corrib) is still the largest single hydrocarbon discovery made offshore Ireland.

The Kinsale Head natural gas reservoir is located in reservoirs some 840 metres below sea level in the Celtic Sea, with the gas produced to surface through two fixed steel production platforms. Production began in 1978, initially supplying gas to the Cork area including the Aghada power station and subsequently to the rest of the country.

Several satellite gas fields were discovered and tied back to the platforms through 1990-2003, including Ballycotton, Southwest Kinsale and Seven Heads.

The Southwest Kinsale Field was redeveloped as Ireland’s first offshore gas storage facility and operated from 2001 to 2017.

In 2009, Marathon Oil sold the Kinsale Head gas fields to Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned oil and gas exploration and production company. The fields continued to be safely operated by Kinsale Energy Limited, a wholly owned Petronas Irish subsidiary that was based in Cork.

All the gas platforms and production wells have now been successfully decommissioned after 42 years of safe and reliable operations.

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