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Irish Times: Offshore platform not viable, says Shell

Offshore platform not viable, says Shell
Lorna Siggins and Tom Shiel
Irish Times; May 06, 2006

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Shell E&P Ireland has ruled out an offshore processing platform for the Corrib gas field. Managing director Andy Pyle said in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday that an offshore terminal had been discounted previously for good reasons involving safety, environmental and technical matters.

On Thursday, he had said Shell was willing to discuss all options with the north Mayo community, including the offshore option.

“We have to be realistic,” he said. “We did not believe an offshore platform was viable before. We do not believe it is viable now.”

But Shell may have difficulty meeting the Government's key safety recommendation on the Corrib gas onshore pipeline, US pipeline expert Richard Kuprewicz has said.

In this context, Mr Kuprewicz was “encouraged” that the firm was offering to talk to the community about other options.

Mr Kuprewicz, whose firm Accufacts Inc undertook a risk analysis of the pipeline for the Centre for Public Inquiry last year, said his firm had tried – and failed – to produce a “failsafe” design similar to that recommended by Government consultants Advantica.

“You only have to hit high pressure once and you have a problem,” he said.

The Accufacts report said the minimum safe distance for the “unique” pipe was 200-400 metres from residents and individuals. Minimum proximity on the current Corrib route is 70 metres.

Shell had described his report as “highly speculative”, but Advantica notes the common ground between the two reports in its final study published this week.

On the “critical issues” identified by Accufacts, Advantica agreed with half of the points raised and could not comment on six issues as they were outside its terms of reference.

But it maintains that if its recommendation on reducing pressure in the pipe to 144 bar is followed, an “early ignition” scenario outlined by Accufacts, such as that in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where 12 people on a camping trip were killed in a rupture in August 2000, could be avoided.

Mr Kuprewicz urged interested parties to read the two reports in tandem. Accufacts has conducted hazard analyses in the US and internationally and had bid unsuccessfully for the Government safety review.

Statoil, partner in the Corrib project, yesterday welcomed the final publication of the safety review, and described it as an “important step” towards addressing outstanding issues.

Helge Hatlestad, Statoil International's senior vice-president, said it would “actively work” with Shell E&P Ireland, Corrib's operator, and partner Marathon to “fully adhere to all of the recommendations” in the review.

Chambers Ireland called yesterday for “fresh efforts to resolve the outstanding issues” in opening up the gas field, and said connection of northwest towns to the gas network should be expedited as part of this.

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