Protests at the Bellinaboy site in Co Mayo, where Shell is building its gas terminal, may intensify when the company starts the next phase of its project next month.
This entails the removing of 450,000 tonnes of peat from the site to clear the way for construction.
Heavy traffic movements accompanying the work are likely to attract more protesters to the site. Shell plans to start producing gas from he field towards the end of 2009.Whatever the arguments about Shell’s method of bringing gas ashore, there is no doubt that, in the medium term, the Corrib find is a key factor in energy supply.
At full capacity, the gas from the Corrib field will produce around 60 per cent of the country’s annual gas needs, for 10 to 15 years.
With the Kinsale field fast running out, imports through the interconnector with Scotland account for about 85 per cent of gas used and this is expected to rise to 90 per cent over the next year or two, leaving the economy exposed in the event of interruption to international supply.
The report by Peter Cassells - the mediator sent by the government to try to broker a compromise between Shell and the protesters last year - said the field was of ‘‘national strategic importance’’ and was ‘‘the only new source of significant volumes of indigenous gas, which can possibly be developed in this decade and give Ireland a security of supply’’.
Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels and burning it to produce electricity, for example, generates considerably fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning oil or coal. More than half of all electricity is now generated from gas-fired stations.
There are still a number of hurdles for Shell to overcome. It is modifying the route of its pipeline following recommendations in the Cassells report, though this had not mollified the protesters.
Public consultation on the new pipeline route will be held later this year. An oral hearing by the Environmental Protection Agency into Shell’s application for an integrated pollution control licence will follow shortly.
Shell plans to start building its terminal this autumn and will apply for consent to modify its onshore pipeline towards the end of the year.
All signs are that the protest group Shell to Sea and other protestors will continue to fight them every step of the way.
© Sunday Business Post