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Irish Times: Shell rules out offshore platform in Atlantic

By: Lorna Siggins, in Castlebar, Co Mayo, Irish Times
Published: Sep 22, 2006

Shell E&P Ireland has firmly ruled out an offshore platform for the Corrib gas project, comparing any such structure to an “Empire State Building” in the Atlantic.

The company’s new deputy manager, Terry Nolan, said that no oil or gas company would ever contemplate such an option, located 83km offshore, and it was “never going to happen”.

However, Shell to Sea campaign spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said last night that it had always sought a shallow-water platform as the safer option. He said that the company was being “disingenuous” in suggesting that any such platform would be built as far out as the well-head.

Speaking at his first media briefing in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday, Mr Nolan identified his priorities as new manager for the Corrib project. The company was taking a “very different approach” than it had in the past, he said, and it recognised the benefits of dialogue. Mr Nolan, originally from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, is a mechanical engineer who has 25 years’ international experience with Shell.

He said that work would resume next week at the Bellanaboy terminal site and he was “very confident” that the onshore pipeline issue would be resolved within the projected three-year terminal construction programme.

However, he would not be drawn on the company’s approach if pickets continued at the terminal next week beyond stating that people had a “right to go to work” and he hoped that the protests would be “small”. He had written to Dr Garavan seeking a meeting to outline the company’s plans.

The company would be back before Ms Justice Mary Laffoy next Thursday in relation to ongoing legal issues involving objecting landowners, he confirmed. The company had signalled its intention to withdraw its injunction, but this involved other parties, and he could not comment further.

Mr Nolan said that the vast majority of people he had met since taking up the post in June, and moving to live in Erris, “want the project to go ahead”. He was aware of a “minority” with a different view.

Firmly dismissing Shell to Sea campaign demands for a sea-based gas-processing platform, Mr Nolan said that it was “safer” and “less environmentally damaging” to process onshore.

Such is the depth of the gas field that an offshore platform located 83km into the Atlantic would have to be “nearly as high as the Empire State Building”, he said, while acknowledging that this height would be from the seabed up. It would still have to be 100m (300ft) above the sea surface to withstand maximum Atlantic wave heights, he said.

Commenting on yesterday’s briefing, Shell to Sea campaign spokesman Dr Garavan said that there was a “contradiction at the heart of Shell’s desire for consultation” in building the terminal before it had secured any agreement on the pipeline.

 

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