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Ireland grants license to controversial Shell pipe

DUBLIN | Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:34am EDT

(Reuters) – Ireland on Friday granted oil major Royal Dutch Shell a license to complete a controversial pipeline to an offshore field it says can provide up to 60 percent of Irish gas needs.

The pipeline will link the north-west coast of Ireland to the Corrib gas field, which is estimated to contain 1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The environment ministry said in a statement that it had granted a pipeline foreshore license, the last government permission needed for work to begin on the project, which has been beset by protests and delays since its discovery in 1996.

But a legal action to overturn the pipeline’s planning permission being heard in the High Court could still cause delays.

The action is being brought by residents who fear that onshore processing would bring the pipeline too close to their homes and pollute their water supply. Protests against the pipeline in the past have led to several arrests and a hunger strike.

“We’ll continue to do everything we can to stop the project going ahead,” said Terence Conway, a spokesman for a campaign against the project. “This is the last consent from the government, but there is still the legal challenge.”

Shell was initially granted consent to construct the pipeline in 2002 but agreed to reroute it after objections from local residents led to mediation.

Shell said in a statement it welcomed the decision. It said it has developed five wells at the field, built the offshore pipeline and was close to completing the onshore terminal.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries, editing by Jane Baird)

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