SHELL EP Ireland has confirmed that work on several key aspects of the Corrib gas project will not now take place this year.
The company told The Irish Times yesterday that the decision was taken for “operational and community reasons”.
It will undertake further work on the offshore pipeline this year, but intends to take an “integrated approach” to the offshore/onshore dimension next year, when it hopes that “permitting processes” will be “further advanced”.
In a letter to stakeholders issued by Shell managing director Terry Nolan, he says that the laying of the 84m umbilical, which provides the link between the Ballinaboy terminal and the Corrib field for remote control of subsea gas production facilities, will be postponed until next year.
The company explained yesterday that the umbilical laying would have involved re-establishing a works site at the Glengad landfall.
“In the past this has been a site where tensions have arisen during works. Having no works site there in 2010 will, it is hoped, minimise the exposure of the local community to such potential tensions,” its communications adviser Colin Joyce said.
The Corrib gas partners are awaiting a final decision from An Bord Pleanála on the onshore pipeline and have sought an extension to May 31st to provide further information on their application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. Last November, An Bord Pleanála found that up to half of the proposed new onshore pipeline route was “unacceptable” on safety grounds, due to proximity to housing.
It suggested that the developers explore another route, up the Sruwaddacon estuary, but the company has said it is satisfied that the current proposed route meets all international safety standards.
In recent correspondence with An Bord Pleanála, Shell consultants RPS have queried aspects of the Bord Pleanála finding.
The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources chief technical officer Bob Hanna also criticised the decision, arguing that it was based “solely on consequence” with no attention given to mitigating measures. Mr Hanna has intimated that the planning board’s approach may establish a “precedent” which could have “the effect of prohibiting all significant infrastructure developments”.
Mr Hanna’s intervention has been criticised by Shell to Sea in Mayo, which also held a protest outside Castlerea prison yesterday in support of fisherman Pat O’Donnell. Mr O’Donnell was given a seven-month sentence last week for his part in surrounding a Garda car during a cavalcade in September 2008 and a separate public order offence at Glengad.
Mr O’Donnell’s boat was sunk in Broadhaven Bay last year in controversial circumstances, ahead of offshore pipeline laying. “Pat O’Donnell and his family have become only the latest victims of abuse as a result of the Corrib gas project,”community group Pobal Chill Chomáin has said.