Shell is ordered to re-route 'risky' Corrib gas pipeline
GAS from the controversial Corrib field off Co Mayo will not come ashore until at least 2011, 15 years after it was first discovered.
The disclosure came after An Bord Pleanala ordered oil giant Shell E&P Ltd to redesign the pipeline and move it away from homes because it poses an "unacceptable risk".
Residents gave a cautious welcome yesterday after Shell was ordered to re-route the pipeline for a third time.
Although the board says the pipe can still come ashore, it will not be able to pass through land at Rossport, which has been the subject of a lengthy and sometimes bitter campaign by local residents. The 9km pipeline is designed to link the offshore gas field with the multi-million euro refinery under construction at Bellanaboy.
Once installed, all elements of the project would be in place and the long-delayed Corrib gas would be able to flow from the wellhead to refinery for processing. The cost of the project is estimated at over €1bn.
Last night, Willie Corduff, one of five men jailed for 94 days in 2005 for his opposition to the project, maintained that his sacrifices and those of his family and community over the past 10 years had been worth it.
"In the event of pipeline failure and the ignition of a vapour cloud, anybody living within a few hundred metres of the pipeline would have been killed. We could not have been expected to live with that," he said.
"The whole project now has to go back to the drawing board. I doubt whether Shell can meet the conditions placed on them by An Bord Pleanala. But knowing Shell they will try another stunt. They won't give up."
Another campaigner, father-of-eight Colm Henry, said the battle was "far from over, but at least there is a ray of hope".
"This is very significant. It shows there must have been something drastically wrong with the modified Shell proposal in the first place," he said.
Shell's proposal was to take the pipeline from the sea and make landfall at Rossport before tunnelling underneath Sruwaddacon Bay and terminating at the Bellanaboy refinery.
Now An Bord Pleanala has ordered it to redesign the pipeline so it runs entirely under Sruwaddacon Bay, and it must prove it meets international safety standards.
The recommended route was initially rejected because it is a wildlife sanctuary protected by law, but if a developer can prove their project will not cause damage, the proposal can be approved by An Bord Pleanala.
In a letter to Shell yesterday, the board said documentation provided by the oil and gas giant did not present a "complete, transparent and adequate demonstration that the pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public".
It said that more than half the route, or 5.6km, ran too close to homes, which was "unacceptable", and that it must be re-routed. But it said it was not opposed to the project. "Having regard to the strategic national importance and current status of the entire Corrib gas field development, it is provisionally the view of the board that it would be appropriate to approve the proposed onshore pipeline development should alterations be made," it said.
In a statement, Shell E&P said the pipeline was safe and it would consider the board's ruling.
Shell must submit new plans for the pipeline by next February, after which a public hearing into the project will re-open.
This means a final decision is unlikely to be issued until late next year and if approved, the gas will not begin to flow until 2011.