AN BORD Pleanála has found that up to half of Shell’s proposed route for its controversial Corrib gas onshore pipeline in Co Mayo is “unacceptable” on safety grounds.
In a ruling yesterday, the planning board said the proposed high-pressure pipeline would be routed too close to housing in Rossport and between Glengad and Aughoose, and suggested that another route be explored.
The houses were “within the hazard range of the pipeline should a failure occur”, the board said in a letter to Shell EP Ireland.
The company said it would give “detailed consideration” to the board’s difficulties with the pipeline, but it still believed the current design was “safe” and met “all international standards”.
The planning board also noted that Ireland had not adopted a risk-based framework for decision-making on major hazard pipelines and related infrastructure.
It said British health and safety risk thresholds, and a standard for allowing “hazard distances” in the event of a pipeline failure, should be applied to the route and design.
The board suggested the developers explore another route, up the Sruwaddacon estuary – a route already ruled out by Shell consultants – and gave three months for further information to be submitted on the route, design and safety of the pipe.
When researching a modified route for the pipeline two years ago, the company’s consultants, RPS, ruled out the Sruwaddacon option on environmental and technical grounds.
The consultants had noted in December 2007 that Sruwaddacon’s estuarine and inter-tidal approaches were listed under the EU habitats directive, and the bay was an “integral part of the Glenamoy river salmonid fishery”.
In its letter to Shell, the board said the firm’s application did “not present a complete, transparent and adequate demonstration” that the pipeline “does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public”.
It also said the impact of construction on a designated rural area in Rossport would “seriously injure residential amenities”, and the development potential of lands there. It noted that part of the pipeline route onshore was omitted from the application.
It was “provisionally the view of the board” that it would be “appropriate to approve the proposed onshore pipeline development, should alterations be made”.
The 15 alterations include modifying the route again; providing new design and risk assessment information; addressing problems with the landfall valve installation at Glengad; providing details of hazard distances; and building “burn distances” and “escape distances”. The developers are also asked to provide an assessment of the societal risk for Glengad. Shell EP Ireland and its partners have until February 5th, 2010, to respond.
The revised onshore route application to avoid housing at Rossport was drawn up by RPS on the recommendation of Government mediator Peter Cassells in 2006.
The Strategic Infrastructure Application lodged in February of this year resulted in a 19-day oral hearing in Belmullet, chaired by inspector Martin Nolan. At the hearing, Shell consultants conceded in questioning by British pipeline consultant Nigel Wright that safe shelter in the event of a rupture and explosion had not been identified for residents close by.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against a senior member of the Garda in relation to the handling of a protest against the Corrib gas project in 2007, but has no powers to take this action. A report in yesterday’s newspaper stated that disciplinary action would be taken, but the recommendation is still with the Garda Commissioner.
Corrib refinery: developments since 2002
The offshore pipeline was laid during the summer and the refinery construction is nearing completion.
The developers still require planning permission for the onshore pipeline and may now require revised foreshore licences for a second modified route – as advised by An Bord Pleanála.
The Corrib gas project plan of development was approved by former minister for the marine Frank Fahey in 2002, along with compulsory acquisition orders to private land for the pipeline.
The developers secured planning permission for the refinery at Bellanaboy in October 2004, after a previous application was rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2003.
The Environmental Protection Agency approved an integrated pollution prevention and control licence for the refinery in November 2007.
Consent for the offshore pipeline from the well-head to land was granted by former energy minister Noel Dempsey in 2005, and the environmental management plan for offshore works was sanctioned this year by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan.