Gas will flow next year after Fionnuala finds light at end of tunnel
GAS from the controversial Corrib field should begin flowing from next year following completion of the country's largest tunnel.
Shell E&P Ireland said that the 4.9km tunnel, linking a 83km offshore pipeline from the Corrib Field to the Bellanaboy Bridge gas processing terminal in Co Mayo, was a key piece of infrastructure needed to bring the natural gas ashore.
Planning permission was granted in January 2011 by An Bord Pleanala for the tunnel running under Sruwaddacon Bay. It was ordered after local people raised fears about safety, and it links the pipeline which lands at Glengad to the €1bn gas terminal at Bellanaboy.
It was originally expected gas would flow from the Mayo field back in 2003.
The project attracted strong levels of local opposition, which has delayed the scheme.
The Corrib gas field was discovered in 1996, and at peak production will supply 60pc of Ireland's gas needs. It is expected to last 15 years.
"The completion of the Corrib tunnel brings us a step closer to producing first gas in 2015 and to improving security of supply for the Irish energy market," said Shell E&P managing director Michael Crothers.
"On behalf of the Corrib partners, Shell, Statoil and Vermilion, we congratulate the entire team on a remarkable achievement."
Work began in January 2013 using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) called 'Fionnuala'.
The 140-metre long TBM and its crew have been working around the clock drilling through rock, sand and clay at depths of between 5.5 metres and 12 metres under Sruwaddacon Bay, a special area of conservation.
As the TBM advanced, over 25,000 pre-fabricated concrete ring segments were installed to line the tunnel.
Work will begin welding and installing the 20-inch gas pipeline in the coming weeks, followed by testing before the tunnel is backfilled with a grout mix to seal it.
Some 1,000 construction workers are employed on the project.
A drilling rig, the 'Ocean Guardian', is offshore and is preparing test wells.
The Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal, which is 98pc complete, is preparing to use 'backfeed' gas from the national grid to test the newly constructed terminal facilities in the autumn.