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Department of Energy consultant unable to access Corrib gas tunnel on recent inspection

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Lorna Siggins: Tuesday September 10, 2013

A Department of Energy consultant tasked with the most recent inspection of the Corrib gas pipeline works was unable to gain access to the tunnel as he did not have the necessary certification.

The consultant, attached to British firm Graeme Peterson Associates, visited the tunnelling work site at Aughoose in north Mayo on July 2nd-3rd, following reports of “sinkholes” or “air depressions” on the surface of Sruwaddacon estuary.

However, in his report to the Department of Energy, he states that tunnel access was “prevented on this occasion” as only personnel who had undergone the regulation confined space training could enter

The consultancy firm has more than 40 years experience in civil engineering works, specialising in tunnelling projects worldwide, including the London Tube and Singapore Metro.

The report, dated July 8th, was undertaken for consultancy firm Environ on the Department of Energy’s behalf and is published on the department’s website.

Local residents had expressed concern about sinkholes which appeared periodically from last May in the estuary, but Shell E&P Ireland said that these were “small depressions” caused by some “air migration to the surface of Sruwaddacon Bay” and insisted they did not pose any risk to public safety.

Entry not required

Contacted by The Irish Times yesterday, the consultancy firm said that the matter was one for the Department of Energy.

The department said that entry to the tunnel was “not required to complete the scope of the work and hence this did not materially affect the conclusions” of the report.

“Environ will continue to make regular site visits in the context of its overall scope of work, which is to assist the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural

“Resources monitor ongoing compliance with the department’s consent conditions,” it said.

Health and safety

Shell contractors Wayss & Freytag and BAM Civil said last night that it has an “approved strict health and safety procedure in place that only permits those with the required certification to enter the tunnel”.

“In July the Department of Energy inspector did not have the required certification and therefore could not enter the tunnel,” it said.

“Regular inspections of the tunnel are carried out by the Wayss & Freytag/BAM Civil joint venture and by our client Shell,” it said.

Work suspended

Construction works at the Aughoose site remained suspended yesterday as investigations continued into the death of a German hydraulics specialist who sustained fatal head injuries early on Sunday morning in the tunnel, 1.8km below Sruwaddacon estuary.

He has been named as Lars Wagner (26) from Offenburg in Germany, who was employed by Herrenknecht AG, the German subcontractor that built the tunnel boring machine hired for the final section of the Corrib gas pipeline.

The contractors have confirmed that one man was also treated for shock but has said there were “no other injuries”.

It is understood that the incident occurred when a valve burst on the tunnel boring machine.

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