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Shell is ordered to re-route ‘risky’ Corrib gas pipeline

Irish Independent

By Paul Melia and Tom Shiel

Wednesday November 04 2009

GAS from the controversial Corrib field off Co Mayo will not come ashore until at least 2011, 15 years after it was first discovered.

The disclosure came after An Bord Pleanala ordered oil giant Shell E&P Ltd to redesign the pipeline and move it away from homes because it poses an “unacceptable risk”.

Residents gave a cautious welcome yesterday after Shell was ordered to re-route the pipeline for a third time.

Although the board says the pipe can still come ashore, it will not be able to pass through land at Rossport, which has been the subject of a lengthy and sometimes bitter campaign by local residents. The 9km pipeline is designed to link the offshore gas field with the multi-million euro refinery under construction at Bellanaboy.

Once installed, all elements of the project would be in place and the long-delayed Corrib gas would be able to flow from the wellhead to refinery for processing. The cost of the project is estimated at over €1bn.

Sacrifices

Last night, Willie Corduff, one of five men jailed for 94 days in 2005 for his opposition to the project, maintained that his sacrifices and those of his family and community over the past 10 years had been worth it.

“In the event of pipeline failure and the ignition of a vapour cloud, anybody living within a few hundred metres of the pipeline would have been killed. We could not have been expected to live with that,” he said.

“The whole project now has to go back to the drawing board. I doubt whether Shell can meet the conditions placed on them by An Bord Pleanala. But knowing Shell they will try another stunt. They won’t give up.”

Another campaigner, father-of-eight Colm Henry, said the battle was “far from over, but at least there is a ray of hope”.

“This is very significant. It shows there must have been something drastically wrong with the modified Shell proposal in the first place,” he said.

Shell’s proposal was to take the pipeline from the sea and make landfall at Rossport before tunnelling underneath Sruwaddacon Bay and terminating at the Bellanaboy refinery.

Now An Bord Pleanala has ordered it to redesign the pipeline so it runs entirely under Sruwaddacon Bay, and it must prove it meets international safety standards.

The recommended route was initially rejected because it is a wildlife sanctuary protected by law, but if a developer can prove their project will not cause damage, the proposal can be approved by An Bord Pleanala.

In a letter to Shell yesterday, the board said documentation provided by the oil and gas giant did not present a “complete, transparent and adequate demonstration that the pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public”.

It said that more than half the route, or 5.6km, ran too close to homes, which was “unacceptable”, and that it must be re-routed. But it said it was not opposed to the project. “Having regard to the strategic national importance and current status of the entire Corrib gas field development, it is provisionally the view of the board that it would be appropriate to approve the proposed onshore pipeline development should alterations be made,” it said.

In a statement, Shell E&P said the pipeline was safe and it would consider the board’s ruling.

Shell must submit new plans for the pipeline by next February, after which a public hearing into the project will re-open.

This means a final decision is unlikely to be issued until late next year and if approved, the gas will not begin to flow until 2011.

– Paul Melia and Tom Shiel

Irish Independent Article

RELATED ARTICLE

IRISH TIMES

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

North Mayo residents say ruling vindicates their stance

LORNA SIGGINS

NORTH Mayo residents have said that An Bord Pleanála’s ruling on the Corrib gas onshore pipeline is a “vindication” of their stance on health and safety grounds.

Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman John Monaghan and resident Mary Corduff also said that Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and his department had “serious questions to answer” in relation to endorsement of the safety of the proposed modified pipeline route at the oral hearing .

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryan said his first priority “has and always will be the safety of the affected community”.

Ms Corduff said this was the outcome of “project splitting”. Her community had “suffered intimidation over years” for their opposition, she said.

“In 2003, Bord Pleanála inspector Kevin Moore described the Bellanaboy site for the refinery as ‘the wrong site’ from a strategic planning perspective,” she said. “Mr Moore should have been listened to. Shell should go back to the drawing board now.”

Former Bord Gáis engineering manager Leo Corcoran, who was one of the appellants at the recent oral hearing, said the location of the landfall valve installation at Glengad was “ socially unsustainable” and did not comply with internationally acceptable codes of practice.

“The current application is an attempt to retrofit a failed design to meet the required codes of practice,” Mr Corcoran said.

Shell to Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington said: “What An Bord Pleanála have really shown today is that the Corrib gas pipeline is not safe to be routed through our community, or indeed any residential area.

“Shell have consistently shown their inability and unwillingness to make this project safe – what it needs is a total overhaul, with real consideration given to the genuine problems with the project raised by campaigners.”

Ms Harrington took issue with the board’s provisional approval if alterations, including a new route, were applied for, saying “Ireland’s real strategic interest would be in regaining control of our natural resources”.

Justice and peace group Action from Ireland (Afri) welcomed the acknowledgment of “legitimate safety concerns of local people”.

“Shell built a refinery in the wrong place and laid an offshore pipeline and they can’t connect one to the other – this was always a crazy approach to planning,” Afri spokesman Andy Storey said.

“For years, local people objecting to this project have been called ignorant and have been the subject of harassment and intimidation, but their position has now been vindicated,” Mr Storey added.

“It is not too late to review this entire project and to ensure that the gas, if it is to be extracted at all, be refined offshore or at a location acceptable to the local community, and that the deal with Shell be renegotiated to ensure the Irish people get a fairer share of the proceeds,” he said.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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