The story of natural gas in Ireland
Prior to the discovery of natural gas off the coast of Cork in the 1970s and the subsequent development of Ireland’s national supply and transmission system, gas was produced from coal at local gasworks sites.
This ‘town gas’ was used primarily for streetlamps. After World War II, technological advancements allowed for the construction of reliable pipelines.
In the late 1960s, exploration ships were searching for oil off the south coast of Ireland, and in 1971, one of the ships, the Glomar North Sea, found gas instead of oil - discovering Ireland’s first indigenous reserve of natural gas. An exploration rig was installed and it took two years to establish that the find was commercially viable.
First Dublin gas transport fleet – 1930s
First gas streetlamp
The Gas Act (1976) established Bord Gáis Éireann as the State Gas Development Agency. The new semi-state replaced a series of private sector small town-based gas companies:
- Cork Gas Company
- Alliance & Dublin Consumers Gas Company
- Limerick Gas Company
- Kilkenny Gas Company
- Clonmel Gas Company
Natural gas was first brought ashore to Ireland in 1978 through a sub-sea pipeline at Inch in Co. Cork. By the end of 1978, Bord Gáis Éireann had 32 staff members.
By the early 1980s, Bord Gáis Éireann had 99 staff members. In 1983, a gas pipeline from Cork to Dublin was completed. Onshore construction work continued to serve customers in Cork City. The Dublin Gas Company received its first natural gas supplies and began converting 120,000 customers to natural gas from town gas.
Customers in Limerick, Clonmel and Kilkenny were converted from town gas to natural gas and the Cork and Dublin Gas Companies were fully acquired by Bord Gáis Éireann.
The Clayton gas holder, c1980s
Dublin gas construction, c1990s
In 1990, Bord Gáis Éireann grew to 905 staff members. The sale of natural gas appliances increased by 50% in 1990 and gas sales to the industrial/commercial sector increased by 15%. In 1992, work commenced on the first subsea interconnector and a major compressor station was under construction in south-west Scotland to increase the supply of gas to Ireland by 50%. By the end of the 90s, natural gas was within reach of 550,000 homes in Ireland.
Aurora Telecom entered the dark fibre market in 2000. The following year, a second interconnector pipeline was approved by the Government. The Commission for Energy Regulation was established in 2002 and significant transmission network extension projects were undertaken to bring gas to the west of Ireland for the first time.
In 2012, the Government announced that an independent utility would be established as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis Éireann to operate a new water utility, Irish Water. In 2014, following the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, Bord Gáis Éireann was rebranded to Ervia – Ireland’s first multi-utility company. Bord Gáis Networks was rebranded to Gas Networks Ireland. In 2010, Bord Gáis Éireann had almost 1,000 employees; today, Ervia has over 1,600 employees.
In 2019, Ireland began its journey to a net-zero carbon gas network, with the introduction of domestically produced renewable gas in the form of biomethane onto the national network. Biomethane is made from farm and food waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion. It is largely identical to natural gas, meaning that it can seamlessly replace gas in appliances, heating systems, transport and power generation.
2019 also saw the launch of Ireland’s first publicly accessible, fast-fill compressed natural gas (CNG) station at Circle K’s Dublin Port premises. CNG is natural gas which has been compressed to fit into a Natural Gas Vehicle’s (NGV) tank and is particularly suitable for use in commercial vehicles. Studies show that switching from diesel to CNG can already reduce well-to-well carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 23% compared to diesel (CENEX, 2019) and nitrous oxide (NOx) by up to 50% (UK Department of Transport, 2018).
Ireland’s €2.7bn, 14,617km national gas network is considered one of the most modern and safe in the world. Over 706,000 Irish homes and businesses trust Ireland’s gas network to provide affordable and reliable energy to meet their heating and cooking needs.