CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the controversial Corrib gas pipeline and refinery at Bellanaboy have said that possible plans by Statoil to use the pipeline to transport gas from a field four times bigger than the Corrib field have reaffirmed fears that the site will be used for further development.
Statoil, who are one of the partners along with Shell in the Corrib gas project, have begun searching for gas in an adjacent area off the Mayo coast and they have confirmed that if any gas is found it is possible that Statoil could use the Corrib gas pipeline being built by Shell to transport it.
Statoil co-owns the exploration rights to the two areas it plans to explore with Shell, but unlike the Corrib gas project, Statoil are the senior partner and are solely responsible for the exploration work. The companies have held on to one of the two areas since 1994 and secured the rights to explore another area last year. The size of the two areas totals 1,970 square kilometres compared to 467 square kilometres for the area that produced the Corrib gas find.
The news of the gas exploration work and the possibility of using the Corrib gas pipeline came as little surprise to the opponents of the Corrib gas project who said they have constantly raised the issue of further development of the site. Dr Mark Garavan said there is a potential for more gas finds off the Mayo coast and the real reason for the development of the Bellanaboy site is for for further expansion.
“That news has come as no surprise, it has been one of the arguments we have been making for years. Bellanaboy as a development was never only about Corrib but it is clearly going to be about the development of further gas fields in the north east Atlantic. The reason Shell and the Corrib developers were so keen on a land base for a refinery site was for the expansion of a development of a future well and it accounts for the reason for a high pressure pipeline. We always argued that this was not just about Corrib, and what’s really the real issue here is the development of a site with the capacity for expansion,” said Mark Garavan.
A spokesperson for Shell to Sea, John Monaghan told The Mayo News that at all the planning stages they have always tried to highlight the issue of expansion at Bellanaboy, but this was refuted by the developers, who said it was a once-off. He said the news that Statoil would look to use the site is confirmation that the site will not just be about Corrib and will lead to the increase in the industrialisation of a rural area.
“This is confirms the statement of the Department of the Marine, Communications and Natural Resources who have been promoting new licences to explore in Atlantic waters and have advertised the Corrib infrastructure as potentially reducing the development costs of any other find. The developers were never pushed on the future expansion of the site and it seems our fears are coming true and are well-founded,” he said.
In light of the new exploration of the gas field, Independent TD, Dr Jerry Cowley called for the re-negotiation of the gas exploration deals to ensure that Ireland benefits from the new finds. He said that at present the Norwegian Government will be the beneficiaries of the Corrib gas find while Ireland will receive nothing from the riches of the gas coming ashore.
Efforts to contact a Shell representative on Monday failed.