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indymedia.ie: Shell’s Threat to Re-start Work in Mayo

Saturday September 23, 2006
By Terry – [email protected]

Latest news from Erris: New police presence, Shell misinformation on technical difficulties of refining Corrib gas at sea, new Shell boss announces attempt to resume work next week.

A number of grilled paddy wagons were seen patrolling the highways and by-ways of northwest Mayo between Crossmolina and Belmullet Friday evening. This can be interpreted as a feeble attempt at intimidation or as reinforcements being drawn in for Shell’s apparent resumption of work at the refinery next week.

On Thursday at a press conference in Castlebar Shell announced that they would be re-starting work at the Ballinaboy refinery site next week. Construction at the site, which so far has been limited to a couple of months of removing peat in preparation for building, has been shut down for the last 14 months by consistent determined picketing. There were last strong expectations that Shell would arrive on the 12th of September, and on that occasion they were seen off.

Terry Nolan, new deputy managing director of Shell Exploration and Production Ireland, claimed at the Castlebar press conference that Shell could not process the gas offshore as this would mean they would have to build a platform “nearly as high as the Empire State building”.

This wasn’t just a phrase he picked off the top of his head.

A glossy brochure distributed by Shell around Erris this past week claims: “Twenty years ago the only way to develop Corrib would have been to install a fixed offshore platform at the field location – but this would have been completely unrealistic because it would have involved building a platform nearly as tall as the Empire State building.”

All bar 100 metres of that platform almost the size of the Empire State building, would, admitted Nolan, be underwater.

Shell’s “Ursa” tension leg platform was built at a water depth of 1230 metres
(http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/ursa/) and Shell’s “Auger” tension leg platform at a water depth of 738 metres (http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/serrano_ore…gano/)
The Ursa was designed to withstand “hurricane force waves and winds”.
The Empire State building is 381 metres high (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_State_Building)

Another passage in the brochure hints at something of the reality behind why Shell will not build the refinery off-shore:

“If Corrib gas had been discovered twenty years ago it would probably never have been recovered because the technology did not exist to bring it to the Irish market in a sustainable and viable way. Thankfully, technology has made great advances since those days, particularly in the area of deep-water development, and this has turned a small to medium sized gas field into a commercially viable prospect.”

It is more “commercially viable” cheaper and more profitable to build the refinery on-land in an unprecedented fashion.

And the next passage is:

“The Corrib gas field is located some 83km off the northwest coast of Mayo and lies in very deep waters; waters that are too deep for divers to access. Twenty years ago the only way to develop Corrib would have been to install a fixed offshore platform at the field location – but this would have been completely unrealistic because it would have involved building a platform nearly as tall as the Empire State Building.”

So what is “unrealistic” is not the technicalities of building something of that stature, but the costs of building the refinery at sea in such a fashion that it does not imperil the living space of a community. Health, safety and the environment do not turn up on the profit and loss accounting sheets. As a rule if a company did not cut corners on such things, it would generate less profit, attract less investment and go down to market competition. Hence they will always behave as they have in this case.

This is applicable irrespective of the size of the Corrib gas field, but as can be seen from the above Shell are taking the ‘poor us it is very small’ line.

Their current estimate of the size of the Corrib field is 1 trillion cubic feet, however the original owners, Enterprise Oil, who were bought by Shell in 2002, claimed in 1998 that it contained between 6 and 11 trillion cubic feet. Furthermore in terms of taxation Shell have the cushiest deal in the world.

The argument for developing the field is that it is a necessary resource, however it would be such a resource irrespective of whether or not Shell or any other private company drew revenue from it. If they, as they argue, cannot develop it any other way from that currently proposed, with its unacceptable social and environmental costs, then surely that is an argument against organising society in such a way that shareholder profit determines what is produced or developed and how.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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