Wednesday 31 December 2008

'No pause button' on Corrib gas project, Shell says

SHELL EP Ireland has said there is "no pause button" on the Corrib gas project, and no overall delay to the current schedule.

The company was responding yesterday to an industry media report that the project may have been put on hold. The current issue of the Oil and Gas Journal refers to the company's recent withdrawal of its onshore gas pipeline application from An Bord Pleanála, and says that "it seems Shell has decided to push the pause button for the time being".

"In the oil and gas business there are times when projects come to a standstill or even halt altogether. Something along those lines has happened to Royal Dutch Shell Plc in Ireland," the report states.

However, a spokesman for the company said more than 900 people were still employed on constructing the Corrib gas terminal at Bellanaboy and "we haven't pressed any pause button".

The terminal or refinery is more than two-thirds built, with much of the basic construction almost finished. The target completion date is the coming summer, which will be followed by a commissioning phase, the spokesman said.

There was "no overall delay" to the schedule as a result of the decision to withdraw the recent onshore pipeline application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Offshore pipelaying, which was due to have taken place last summer, was "on schedule for 2009", he said. The firm has set no date for sending in a fresh application to An Bord Pleanála - the original pipeline route was exempted from the planning process. The appeals board had been seeking crucial additional information from the Corrib gas developers' consultants on the first modified application, submitted earlier this year by Shell consultants RPS.

Last August, the board gave the developers six weeks to provide additional information regarding the development's impact on the stability of ground in the area, on its environmental impact, and the impact of any extension of the life of wellfields.

An Bord Pleanála also sought reports on a post-landslide site at Derrybrien wind farm in Co Galway, as referred to in the company's environmental impact statement.

The proposed 9km, high-pressure pipeline route extends from a landfall at Glengad under Dooncarton mountain, where there was a series of landslides in September 2003.

RPS have said a revised application would "seek minor realignments to part of the proposed route for the Corrib onshore pipeline, in order to avoid more sensitive habitat, including bog pools, in the Rossport commonage, identified during recent surveys".

The community group Pobal Chill Chomáin has queried this reference to surveys, in the light of a District Court ruling preventing Shell from carrying out such invasive works on the commonage.

In November 2007, a Belmullet District Court ruling in a case taken by 20 landowners found that proper notification was not given by Shell consultants in relation to commonage access, nor was shareholder consent sought under the Gas Act. The company has since acquired a share in the Rossport commonage.

Irish Times

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