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Irish Times: Mayo TDs call for Shell to build offshore terminal

Irish Times: Mayo TDs call for Shell to build offshore terminal

30 May 2005


Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent


Two Mayo TDs have called on the Government to insist that Shell E&P Ireland build a shallow water offshore terminal for the €900 million Corrib gas field on safety grounds.


Fine Gael TD Michael Ring and Independent TD Dr Jerry Cowley were responding to an Irish Times report that a British consultancy firm, hired by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to conduct an independent safety review of the onshore pipeline, is part-owned by the project’s major shareholder, Shell.


“The people of Erris who oppose this high-pressure pipeline are not unreasonable, but they are frightened, and now it has been shown once and for all that they cannot trust anybody,” Mr Ring said yesterday.


“It is time that the Government and Mayo County Council ask Shell to do what is being done everywhere else in the world, and not allow this terminal or this pipeline onshore to put people’s lives at risk. This should have been made a condition of planning approval at the very outset, but life was made too easy for the exploration companies by the Government and Mayo County Council,” he said.


The Minister has ordered a new review of the quantified risk assessment carried out by Corrib’s former major shareholders, Enterprise Energy Ireland, due to the conflict of interest.


Shell E&P Ireland Ltd said it informed the Minister’s department last week of the potential conflict, as soon as it became aware that it held an equity stake in the British-based engineering consultancy firm, British Pipeline Agency Ltd.


Information on safety assessments of the high-pressure pipeline had been published by the Minister earlier last week as a prelude to approving installation and commissioning of the structure. It will link the gas field 70 kilometres off the Mayo coast with the proposed onshore terminal at Bellanaboy.


This consent has now been delayed, pending a new review. Mr Ring and Dr Cowley believe the pipeline should not be allowed to run inshore at all in the light of the new development.


Ms Maura Harrington, spokeswoman for Erris residents, said it showed how the gas field was “an inhouse arrangement” which was being “pushed through with the uncritical input of the Minister’s petroleum affairs division”.


Significantly, An Bord Pleanala’s original ruling in April 2003 on the onshore gas terminal highlighted safety risks of the pipeline.


It also recommended that the option of an offshore terminal be pursued. The inspector, Kevin Moore, said that projects similar to Corrib in other parts of the world were restricted to offshore processing platforms, not land-based ones.


Where terminals were sited on land they were in coastal areas and not inland in remote rural locations, and the developer had not proved that this option was non-viable, he said.


Mr Moore was overruled by his own board on these grounds, but his concern about the serious risk posed by a plan to transfer peat from the Bellanaboy site was upheld.


Shell E&P Ireland said yesterday that it was “regrettable” that public representatives should “seek to undermine public confidence further” in the Corrib gas field project, which was designed to a “world-class standard”. There was “no rational or sound basis for a call to redesign the plan”, it said.


Shell had all the relevant commissions and consents in place for the onshore terminal, which was now being constructed, the company said.

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