Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has granted a foreshore licence to Shell E&P Ireland as one of its last outstanding consents for the Corrib gas project.
The licence, which is subject to conditions, allows the lead developer to construct the final 8km section of high pressure gas pipeline linking the Corrib field off the Mayo coastline to the terminal built inland at Ballinaboy.
Planning approval has already been granted for the pipeline by An Bord Pleanála, and consents under the Gas and Petroleum Acts were issued by former acting energy minister Pat Carey on the day of the general election.
An Taisce has sought a judicial review of the Bord Pleanála decision, which is before the High Court next Tuesday.
An Taisce’s chairman, Charles Stanley-Smith, has said that the organisation is “unhappy that such a decision has been made before the judicial review process is completed” but that Mr Hogan’s approval “does not affect the case”.
Shell E&P Ireland applied for the foreshore licence in June 2010 to construct a pipeline system from Glengad through Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation (SAC), involving a 4.6km-long concrete tunnel.
The department received 465 submissions, identified 103 separate issues arising from these and sought further information from the developer last autumn.
Mr Hogan said that the decision was made “pursuant to the provisions of the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2009”, and “having regard to” submissions from prescribed bodies, submissions during public consultation, the advice of
his department and the conclusions and recommendations of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee (MLVC)
The MLVC was established by former marine minister Frank Fahey to provide advice on initial consents for the project in 2001/2002.
The tunnel and associated works will add €100 million to the cost of the project, according to the developer, with costs now running at between €2.5 billion to €3 billion which can be offset against tax. The pipeline route is expected to take two years to construct, with gas projected to flow in 2013.
The developer still requires a revised emissions licence from the Environmental Protection Agency and a safety permit from the Commission for Energy Regulation under the new Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Act 2010.