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Ireland Digs Deep For Economic Recovery

The solution to Ireland’s economic woes could be under the seabed – if further reserves are found it could begin exporting oil.

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Saturday 03 August 2013

By David Blevins, Ireland Correspondent, in County Mayo

Seismic surveys are to be carried out to ascertain if Ireland has enough oil and gas reserves to export fuel.

Shell is already building the longest gas tunnel in Europe (4.9km) to transport fuel from one field, 85km off the west coast.

If Russia ever turns off the supply, Ireland may soon be able to offer an alternative.

Michael Crothers, managing director of Shell Ireland, explained: “Because Ireland is beside a major market, and the UK is looking at decommissioning nuclear facilities, having to shut down coal-fired power plants because of greenhouse gas emissions, there’s an enormous opportunity for Ireland, if gas can be found, to export into that ready market.”

At the peak of its 20-year life, gas from the Corrib field will meet two thirds of Ireland’s need.

The ambitious project has created 1,400 construction jobs in County Mayo, a remote region previously blighted by unemployment and emigration.

Bernadette McManamon, a civil engineer, said: “Sixty percent of my class, if not more, have emigrated and most of them are in Malaysia or Australia and some in America so I definitely wouldn’t be working in Ireland … if it wasn’t for the Corrib gas project.”

The exploration has not been without its opponents. In 2005, five local protesters – the so-called ‘Rossport Five’ – went to prison.

Lessons have been learned about the need for greater engagement with communities along the coastline before any prospecting takes place.

Gerry Coyle, a Fine Gael councillor, said: “You cannot come in and go telling them what to do. You have to explain in great detail.

“Sometimes, it’s very difficult on communities. This community were cast into the middle of this. They didn’t go looking for gas. Gas came to them.”

Mr Crothers agreed: “I really think it depends upon how they are approached. Any project is a balance between the social, the environmental and the economic and getting that balance right is key.”

The gas has brought an estimated 6bn euros (£5bn) for Ireland’s GDP.

Tommy Talbot, who opened a local hotel during the recession, said: “You drive from here to Dublin and there’s a lot of towns on the way out – Roscommon, Leitrim, there’s nothing in them. They really are struggling.

“Down here, we really have been cushioned by the development.”

To date, they have found one trillion cubic feet of gas in the Corrib field, boosting the country’s energy security.

If the seismic surveys turn up enough fuel for export, Ireland could have found the solution to its economic problems.

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